French spirits group Remy Cointreau today reported a 7% rise in first-half profits, driven by recovering demand for its cognac in China and a growing take-up for its premium brands in the US, its top market. 

The maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liquor is on a drive to sell higher-priced spirits to boost profitability.

It kept its forecast for growth in current operating profit in the 2016/17 full year on a like-for-like basis. 

Current operating profit for the six months to September 30 reached €123.9m, a 7% rise on a like-for-like basis. 

In October, Remy Cointreau had said it was comfortable with the consensus of analysts' estimates for full-year like-for-like operating profit growth of 8%. 

Similar to other spirits makers, including larger rivals Diageo and Pernod Ricard, Remy Cointreau has been impacted by falling sales of cognac and other luxury goods in China.

This follows a government crackdown on luxury gift-giving and personal spending by Chinese civil servants. 

The Remy Martin cognac division, which accounts for 80% of group profit, saw operating profit rise 9.1% on a like-for-like basis to €101.9m. 

Its cognac business also had a strong performance in the US, driven by the success of the 1738 Accord Royal cognac as well as renewed growth in greater China. 

The Liqueurs & Spirits division saw its profit rise 8.6%, again helped by a solid performance in the US and stronger demand in France.

The Metaxa liqueur also confirmed its returned to growth in the first-half as demand improved in Russia and sales stabilised in Greece. 

The Chinese government's earlier crackdown on gift-giving and personal spending had led to significant changes across the group. 

The company had expanded its footprint away from China and towards the US, making 38% of group sales in the US compared to around 20% for China. 

Remy Cointreau has also stepped up spending on advertising and marketing, particularly in the US to boost demand for its Remy Martin and 1738 Accor Royal cognacs and for its Louis XII cognac, which sells for $3,000 per bottle.