Pernod Ricard has said that it plans to dispose of Eu1bn (£784.6m) worth of assets, including one of its attractive brands, over the next 12 to 18 months. Pierre Pringuet, the company’s managing director, said that while he couldn’t give details of the actual brand, he had received expressions of interest and the group had decided to sell while it retained its value. Pringuet told a press conference held in London today: “It is better to sell the brand while it is in great shape, than keep it and for it to have no value in a couple of years. “It is an attractive brand and several companies have expressed interest, but I cannot be more specific as I want to establish a competitive process to get a good price. “Private equity is still there, we should not consider they have disappeared from the market.” The group said that it would also make other disposals of relatively marginal secondary brands, in order to help its balance sheet. Pernod has also already committed to selling several drinks from the Vin & Sprit portfolio, including Gronstedts cognac, Star Gin, Red Port, Dry Anis, Lubuski gin and Serkova vodka. The comments came as the company announced that it has completed its £4.4bn acquisition of Vin & Sprit, the owner of Absolut vodka and that the disposals were part of the minor concessions agreed with the European Commission. The company made the announcement alongside its results for the year to the end of June, reporting total sales up 2.3% to Eu6.5m. Overall organic growth was up 8.7%, while the company’s top 15 brands grew 5% in terms of volume and 11% in value. Europe experienced organic growth of 7%, although the UK suffered a tough fourth quarter as a result of an increase in excise duty. Jean Manuel Soriet, the chief executive of Pernod Ricard, said that despite the tough last quarter, the UK market had seen growth across the full year, with spirits and wine up 4%. Soriet said: “I am not concerned about our UK portfolio in the long-term. Because of the strength of our brands and our higher prices, I think we will resist the current climate better than our competitors.” Globally, Asia recorded the strongest growth of 13%, with China and India as the major contributors. North America recorded 5% organic growth, although the group highlighted that it had seen a decline in on-trade sales, with the split having shifted 30:70% in favour of the off-trade. Pringuet responded to fears over a slowing economy in the US and Europe by saying that the company was in a good position to react to a downturn. Pringuet said: “Over in the US we are not facing a collapsing market. Our industry is performing quite well. “We can, however, react to a downturn in the economy by decreasing the level of advertising and promotional expenses, which is currently 17% of sales, without endangering our brands. “We can also reduce the amount we choose to distil for the aged products such as whisky, rum and cognac, for which we have to make plans for the next 12 to 15 years based on our forecasts. “We can therefore react to the signs of a downturn and make changes for a six month to one year period, in order to get through the negative climate.”

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