* H1 op. profit 134.1 mln euros, up 11.8 pct l-f-l
* H1 cognac division op. profit up 17.6 pct l-f-l
* Keeps goal for growth in 17/18 current operating profit (Adds details from statement)
PARIS, Nov 23 (Reuters) - French spirits group Remy Cointreau kept its full-year profit growth goal after robust demand for its luxury cognac in China and in the main U.S. market boosted half-year results.
The maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liquor said its strategy of focusing on selling spirits priced at $50 plus a bottle to boost profitability helped it largely offset a double-digit rise in communication and brand image spending.
Current operating profit rose 11.8 percent on a like-for-like basis to 134.1 million euros ($158.60 million) in the six months to Sept. 30. This translated into a margin of 24.6 percent of sales, up 1.1 percentage points from a year-ago.
The performance compared with the company-compiled consensus of 21 analysts for current operating profit of 137.3 million euros, and like-for-like growth of 11.7 percent.
Remy Cointreau kept its forecast for growth in its 2017/2018 current operating profit at constant exchange rates.
The Remy Martin cognac division, which accounts for 80 percent of group profit, saw operating profits rise 17.6 percent on a like-for-like basis to 115.5 million euros.
This largely offset a 17.5 percent decline in the operating profits of its liqueurs and spirits division, where earnings were impacted by the deconsolidation of the Passoa liquor brand.
Remy Cointreau has been focusing on selling higher-priced spirits, as part of a strategy that has benefited from a rebound in Chinese demand.
Private consumption of drinks and spirits has been picking up in China, offsetting the impact of an anti-corruption crackdown in the country on expensive gifts in recent years.
While Remy is pushing higher priced products in China, including its $3,000 a bottle top-of-the range-Louis XIII cognac, rival Pernod Ricard <has taken the opposite approach in launching less-expensive brands in China.
Remy Cointreau shares have risen 37 percent so far in 2017.
The stock is trading at 33.4 times estimated 2018 earnings, marking a 65 percent premium to the average for the beverages sector and representing a performance more in line with that of luxury goods stocks.
($1 = 0.8455 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)