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Guinness maker Diageo toasts profits rise

LONDON, Feb 10, 2011 – Diageo, the world\’s biggest producer of alcoholic drinks, said Thursday that net profits rose 18 percent to £1.194 billion (1.404 billion euros, $1.917 billion) during the group\’s first half.

Diageo, which makes Guinness stout, Baileys liqueur, Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka, said the figure for the six months to December 31 compared with profit after tax of £1.016 billion during the first half of 2009/10.

"Despite the economic weakness in much of Europe, our first half performance gives me increased confidence that we will improve on the organic operating profit growth we delivered in fiscal 2010," said chief executive Paul Walsh.

The British company said that economic pressures in Greece, Portugal and Spain, and to a lesser extent in Ireland, led to a 13 percent drop in sales across those markets.

However, sales grew 20 percent in Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe "as a result of the improving economic situation and strong growth of imported spirits," Diageo added in its earnings statement.

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