French spirits group Remy Cointreau posted a 25.1% jump in better than expected like-for-like sales in the third quarter.

The company also retained its annual outlook, driven by upbeat demand for its premium cognac in the US and China.  

The maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liqueur also forecast like-for-like sales growth to be buoyant in the fourth quarter, though lower compared with its third quarter revenue due to strategic inventory management. 

For the 2020/21 full year, Remy Cointreau upheld a forecast of positive like-for-like current operating profit growth.

It reiterated that it remained confident of its ability to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis. 

The positive growth forecast would mark a rebound from a group profit slump of 22% in full year 2019/20. 

Group sales reached €350m in the three months to the end of December compared to an average forecast of 14.3% organic growth in a company-compiled poll of 15 analysts. 

Sales at the Remy Martin cognac division, which makes the bulk of group profit, surged 33.1%, outperforming expectations of an 18.2% growth. 

The third quarter performance marked a strong rebound from a 16.4% sales slump in the first half and reflected catch-up effects in the US, where at-home cognac consumption remained buoyant, the company said. 

A recovery in Chinese demand also accelerated during the Mid-Autumn Festival and the "Double Eleven" or Singles' Day online shopping festival held on November 11, 2020. 

Although their decline slowed in the third quarter, duty-free sales remained weak due to travel restrictions and the slow reopening of bars and restaurants from the coronavirus-led lockdown continued to weigh on Southeast Asian sales. 

The French company's fiscal year starts on April 1 and ends on March 31.