By Francesca Landini and Keith Weir
MILAN (Reuters) -Campari sales jumped in the first three months of the year as pubs and restaurants reopened in Europe, with demand further boosted by premises stocking up on spirits before price rises take effect, the Italian drinks group said on Tuesday.
Revenue came in at 535 million euros ($561 million) in the first quarter, up 29% on a like-for-like basis, more than double the increase pencilled in by analysts.
Chief Executive Bob Kunze-Concewitz said that stockpiling accounted for nearly half of the increase.
The maker of Aperol and Campari bitters is introducing price rises of “mid-single-digit and upwards” on its aperitifs, but will try not to dent demand when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has darkened the economic outlook.
Despite the war and inflationary pressures, Kunze-Concewitz told Reuters he expected customers to continue to enjoy the group’s drinks, and sounded optimistic on Aperol’s potential.
“In difficult times, you cannot treat yourself, maybe you skip the vacation but you can go for the nice bottle of Scotch, cognac or bourbon,” he said in a phone interview.
The company’s shares were 2.5% higher in late afternoon trade in Milan after it confirmed its forecast for a flat organic EBIT margin in 2022.
Campari, which is the sixth largest premium spirits group globally, remained interested in mergers and acquisitions, he said, while refraining from making any precise predictions.
“Acquisitions come when they come,” he said.
Sales of Aperol, which is the group’s best-selling product and the key ingredient for the Spritz cocktail, rose 72% in the first quarter, boosted by strong consumption in Italy.
For the drink, “we would expect 20% growth rate, not to be crazy, going forward for many, many years”, Kunze-Concewitz said, underlining the product still had room to grow.
In Russia, where the group has 122 employees, investments and promotions were stopped and activity scaled down.
“What we decided to do in Russia is to basically reduce the business significantly, our aim is to have enough sales to cover the wage bills of our people in the country,” Kunze-Concewitz said.
“We are taking care of our people in Ukraine, we are providing them with financial aid, with housing, some of them with new jobs in our western European subsidiaries,” he added, saying the group had some 34 staff in Ukraine.
The positive performance in the first quarter was amplified by an easy comparison with the beginning of 2021 when consumption had been hit by restrictions on bars and restaurants.
($1 = 0.9528 euros)
(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Keith Weir; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)