PARIS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Spirits group Pernod Ricard posted a stronger-than-expected 5.7 percent rise in first-quarter underlying sales, helped by higher demand for its Martell cognac and Chivas whisky in China, and by robust growth in its main U.S. market.
For the first quarter ended Sept. 30, Pernod Ricard reported sales of 2.29 billion euros ($2.71 billion), marking a like-for-like rise of 5.7 percent and above analysts' estimates for 3.4 percent like-for-like growth.
Pernod, the world's second-biggest spirits group behind Britain's Diageo, said disruption from a ban on alcohol sales near highways in India, its second largest market, continued to weigh on sales but added this was now easing off.
Pernod also reiterated that a gradual improvement in its performance was expected from the second quarter.
The owner of Mumm champagne, Absolut vodka and Martell cognac said that, in an environment that remained uncertain, it was keeping its forecast for a 3-5 percent rise in full-year profit from recurring operations after last year's 3.3 percent growth.
($1 = 0.8473 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)