Drinks group Diageo has said that net sales of Guinness rose by 1% in Ireland in the six month period to the end of December - the first increase after six years of sales decline. 

But overall the company's net sales in Ireland were down 2%.

Diageo said that on a global basis, net sales of Guinness fell by 4% due a weaker performance in Nigeria, Indonesia and the UK on the back of difficult market conditions and price sensitivity.

However, it said the brand grew in many African markets - with double digit growth recorded in Kenya.

The six month period saw the launch of Guinness American Blonde lager in the US, the Brewers Project in the UK and Ireland and Guinness Zero in Indonesia. 

Meanwhile, sales of Baileys liquor rose by 1.9% in Ireland in the six month period, while they grew by 2% in the UK. But they were down 5% on a worldwide basis, as the brand entered the year with high stock levels.  

Diageo Ireland last year opened one of the most environmentally efficient brewhouses in the world at St James's Gate Brewery in Dublin. 

This plant accounts for 35% of global beer for Diageo and brews one billion pints of beer a year. 75% of this is exported to over 130 markets worldwide. 

Meanwhile, Diageo, the world's largest spirits maker, reported lower than expected sales for the six months to December, hurt by foreign exchange rate moves and discounting on vodka in the US, its biggest and most profitable market.
              
The maker of Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker whisky warned last month that US Thanksgiving sales were disappointing and it expected sales to be broadly flat in the region. 

Competition among vodka makers has sharpened in the US as drinkers moved to brown spirits such as bourbon. 

The company's chief financial officer Deirdre Mahlan said that Diageo was not yet feeling the benefit of an improving economic picture in the US, though it hoped to do so as lower gas prices meant more money to spend on extras such as alcohol. 

Elsewhere, Diageo has been plagued by volatility in emerging markets, from a crackdown on extravagant spending in China to an economic slowdown in Brazil. 

Overall, Diageo said net sales in the six months to the end of December, the first half of its fiscal year, were £5.9 billion, below analysts' average estimate of £6 billion. 
              
The results were hurt by the strengthening of Sterling versus currencies such as the Venezuelan bolivar, Russian rouble and the euro. 

At current rates, Diageo estimates foreign exchange to hurt net sales for the full year, ending in June, by £120m, operating profit by £85m, and to increase net finance charges by £10m. 

Diageo, which does not give financial forecasts, said it still expected to "deliver on its performance ambition," which includes the aims of "top-tier" net sales growth for its industry and "consistent" margin improvement.