The investment column: Maturing nicely

LIKE a good Scotch, Glenmorangie's plans take a long time to mature.

Four years ago the whisky group embarked on a strategy to promote its premium malt brands. To that end it has cut back on its bulk sales to Europe and the US, choosing instead to accelerate the production of its pricier and higher margin bottles such as 18-year-old Glenmorangie.

That policy is beginning to look a canny one. Malt whisky sales are still growing rapidly while the cheaper end of market, which has been hit by supermarkets slashing prices, continues to be difficult.

Against that backdrop Glenmorangie's profits for the year to March rose 8 per cent to pounds 8.4m. Ignoring the impact of the strong pound, profits would have shown a healthy 12.4 per cent rise.

Similarly Glenmorangie's expansion into China is likely to take years to come to fruition. But if it can exploit the fact that it has the only official licence to sell spirits in the Chinese market before competitors catch on, then it could make serious money.

Of course Glenmorangie is a small fish in a big pond dominated by sharks such as Diageo. But its strength is still its brand and by teaming up with big players such as Jack Daniels manufacturer Brown & Forman to distribute its whiskies then it should be able to hold its own in vital markets like the US. And prices are holding up well.

Analysts forecast profits of around pounds 9.5m, putting the shares, which remained unchanged at 780p yesterday, on a prospective PE ratio of 16. Good value.