C&C toasts boom in cider sales

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The Irish drinks group C&C shone with a 13 per cent increase in profits yesterday, thanks to booming sales of Magners, the cider brand it is rolling out across Britain.

Shares in C&C, which have doubled over the past year because of the growth of the cider business, climbed 6.4 per cent to €6.70 (£4.6m) yesterday. Since its launch in Scotland in 2004 and London last year, Magners has captured 0.5 per cent of the British beer and cider market and is expected to double its share this year, backed by a €30m (£21m) advertising campaign. That is more than double the amount spent on previous marketing campaigns in the UK. The group will also put €50m towards doubling its cider-making capacity.

The company, which is credited with reviving interest in cider by targeting younger people, intends to launch Magners in Britain's 20 top cities this year. It will also start exploring new cider markets beyond the UK and Ireland in the latter half of the year.

Maurice Pratt, the chief executive, said: "We are clearly alive to the potential opportunity of this brand beyond that market," pointing to mainland Europe where C&C already sells drinks such as Carolans Irish Cream and Tullamore Dew whiskey.

The strength of the cider business, which operates as Bulmers in Ireland, has made up for lower sales at C&C's spirits, soft drinks and snacks divisions, including Tayto crisps and Ballygowan mineral water. Group operating profits rose to €124.7m in the year to 28 February, with 68 per cent coming from cider sales. Overall revenues climbed 9 per cent to €817m, with cider sales volumes soaring by 130 per cent.

Mr Pratt reiterated previous forecasts for the current year, predicting group earnings growth would be "in the teens".

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