Diageo, the drinks giant, has reported a decline in sales in Britain for the six months to 31 December 2011 as it moved away from promotions. Overall volume growth for the company, whose brands include Guiness and Smirnoff, grew 3%, with organic net sales up 7% to £5,757m. Organic operating profit before exceptional items increased 9% to £1,866m. Interim dividend increased 7% to 16.6p per share. In Western Europe, volumes fell 2% and organic net sales declined 3%. The company said performances by country reflected the state of the individual economies, with double digit net sales growth in Germany and France and declines in Spain, Greece and Ireland. Andrew Cowan, country director at Diageo Great Britain, said: “Diageo Great Britain’s more efficient operating model, and clear focus on customers and consumers, has driven an increase in operating margin for the business, despite challenging economic conditions. This has led to solid brand performances and improved net sales per case. “Although overall net sales declined, this was in line with a strategy to reduce the depth of promotions; a strategy which delivered four percentage points of positive price mix compared with the same period last year.” Cowan said the net sales growth of 9% in Smirnoff in Western Europe was “largely driven by Great Britain and Germany”. “In fact, value in Great Britain increased by 17%* in the off trade and 10% in the on trade, compared with the same period last year.” Elsewhere, net sales in emerging markets increased 18%, with operating profits at +23%, with emergiung markets now accounting for 40% of its business.