Diageo, the world's biggest spirits group, has today posted a 5% rise in underlying quarterly sales.

The increase was driven by demand for brands including Smirnoff vodka and Captain Morgan rum in the US and across emerging markets.

The group, which posted a 9% rise the same time last year, said today that it had made a "solid" start to its financial year in the July-September first quarter, with volume up 2%.

Underlying quarterly sales in North America, which accounts for around a third of group sales, grew by 6%. 

Sales rose by 16% in its Latin America and Caribbean region, 11% in Africa and 2% in the Asia Pacific.

Europe sales declined by 1%. Double-digit percentage growth in sales across Turkey, Russia and Eastern Europe was dragged down by weak trading elsewhere.

The management statement noted that revenues in Southern Europe and Ireland continued to be impacted "by the economic situation in those markets" and that consumer demand in France was hit by January's duty increases.

Underlying sales exclude the impact of acquisitions.

The maker of Guinness, Johnnie Walker whisky and Tanqueray gin expects half its turnover to come from fast-growing Asian, African and Latin American markets by 2015 compared with nearly 40% in its last financial year.

Diageo is in talks to acquire a stake in Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya's United Spirits Ltd, reviving an on-off courtship that would ramp up its presence in the world's largest whisky market.

The group, which has long coveted an expanded presence in India, is looking initially to buy a 15% stake from Mallya's UB Group, which owns about 28% of United Spirits, and a further 10% from other shareholders, one banker familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.

As part of its growth strategy, Diageo is also believed to be eyeing the acquisition of a minority stake in Mexican tequila maker Jose Cuervo from its owners, the Beckmann family.