Diageo today publishes its interim trading update for the half-year ended 31 December 2020. Diageo said that its net sales (£6.9 billion) down 4.5%, as organic growth of 1.0% was more than offset by the unfavourable exchange. Reported operating profit (£2.2 billion) declined 8.3%, driven by unfavourable exchange and a decline in organic operating profit.
The beverage company’s organic net sales rose by 1.0%, despite a significant impact from Travel Retail and on-trade restrictions. North America was up 12.3%, offsetting declines in other regions, except for Africa which was broadly flat.
Nigeria and Africa Regional Markets
Africa net sales were flat. Growth in Nigeria and Africa Regional Markets was not enough to offset declines in East Africa and South Africa. East Africa declined 5% driven by Kenya, which was significantly impacted by on-trade restrictions, partly offset by growth in Tanzania and Uganda.
In Nigeria, net sales grew 10% due to the strong double-digit growth of mainstream spirits, primarily driven by Malta Guinness, Orijin (which benefitted from a refreshed marketing campaign and the development of a small formats strategy), as well as strong growth in Guinness.
Beer grew 3% driven by Guinness despite the disruption in October due to the civil protests.
In South Africa, net sales declined 10%, as a result of periodic bans on alcohol sales and other severe Covid-19 related restrictions impacting sales across all categories.
Africa Regional Markets grew 7% driven by double-digit growth of beer in Ghana and Cameroon. Total Beer declined 1% driven by Senator Keg and Tusker due to on-trade restrictions in Kenya, partly offset by growth in Guinness, Malta Guinness and Serengeti. Spirits performance was flat.
The strong performance of mainstream spirits offset declines in scotch. Operating margin declined 434bps, driven by lower fixed cost absorption, one-off charges and input cost inflation partially offset by productivity initiatives.
North America growth was driven by resilient consumer demand, share growth of total beverage alcohol, positive category mix and the replenishment of stock levels by distributors and retailers.
Organic operating profit down 3.4%, driven by channel and category mix. Productivity benefits from everyday cost efficiencies largely offset the cost of goods sold inflation.
Net cash from operating activities up £0.7 billion to £2.0 billion, and free cash flow up £0.8 billion to £1.8 billion. This primarily reflects a lower tax payment and working capital benefit driven by reduced creditor balances at the end of fiscal 20, as a result of reduced sales demand and cost control measures triggered in response to Covid-19. Creditor balances have now recovered to more normalised levels.
Basic eps of 67.6 pence decreased by 14.6%. Pre-exceptional eps declined 12.8% to 69.9 pence, driven primarily by unfavourable exchange and lower operating profit.
Interim dividend increased 2% to 27.96 pence per share.
Strong sequential performance improvement in all regions compared to the second half of fiscal 20. Expecting continued impact in the second half of fiscal 21 from on-trade restrictions and disruption to Travel Retail.
Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, commenting on the results said:
“We delivered a strong performance in a challenging operating environment, returning to top line organic sales growth during the half. We rapidly pivoted to the channels and occasions most relevant to consumers and invested behind new opportunities. This more than offset the impact of on-trade restrictions and the decline in Travel Retail.
North America, our largest market, performed particularly strongly and ahead of our expectations. Consumer demand has been resilient and the spirits category continues to gain a share of total beverage alcohol.
Across other regions, we delivered strong sequential improvement compared to the second half of fiscal 20. This reflects improved market share performance through excellent execution in the off-trade channel, and the partial re-opening of the on-trade channel in certain markets.
Organic operating margin improved compared to the second half of fiscal 20 driven by increased operating leverage and tight control of discretionary expenditure. The decline compared to the first half of fiscal 20 reflected an adverse channel and portfolio mix. We expect margins to improve as the on-trade and Travel Retail recover and with the continued benefit of everyday efficiency.
Our proprietary tools and data-led insights are enabling us to invest in smartly ineffective marketing and innovation. We continue to strengthen brand equity, premiums our portfolio and expand our digital capabilities.
I am proud of the creativity and adaptability of our people and their exemplary commitment to supporting our customers and communities. Our $100 million global commitment to support the recovery of the hospitality sector has already reached around 30,000 outlets in seven countries.
We expect ongoing volatility and disruption in the second half of the year, particularly in the on-trade channel, which will make performance more challenging. The medium and long-term growth drivers and opportunities for our business remain intact and I am confident in our strategy, the resilience of our business and Diageo’s ability to emerge stronger.”