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Laurent Perrier Full-Year Net Profit Rises 34%

French champagne maker Laurent Perrier toasted a 34% rise in its annual net profit on Friday, helped by sales of its most expensive brands to wealthy financial market traders.

Net profit for the year 2006-2007 rose to 30.2 million euros ($40.57 million), beating market forecasts and sending its shares to a record high. Sales rose by 14%. According to Reuters Estimates, the average forecast by analysts was for a net profit of around 27 million euros.

Laurent Perrier has benefited from higher sales in Britain and the United States, while a distribution deal with Japanese drinks group Suntory Ltd has also boosted business.

A company spokeswoman said the group, founded in 1812, had found a new generation of champagne drinkers in young high-flying traders in Wall Street, London and Tokyo.

"We certainly have a high number of traders who can afford to buy our most expensive champagnes," she said.

Apart from its main Laurent-Perrier brand, the company's other brands include Delamotte and Champagne de Castellane. Its most expensive champagne typically sells at around 80 euros a bottle.

Laurent Perrier shares were up 2.2% at 100.60 euros in mid-morning trade, having earlier touched a record of 101 euros. French broker Fideuram Wargny kept a "buy" rating on the stock.

The company, however, warned of a sharp slowdown in volume growth in the current year.

"Despite the strength of the euro, the company estimates that the champagne market should remain well placed. However, the growth in the company's volumes should slow down sharply in comparison to 2006-2007, with the exception of the Laurent-Perrier brand," it said in a statement.

Laurent Perrier shares have risen nearly 40% since the start of 2007, building on a 50% rise last year.