Drinks group Diageo said its first-half sales rose by nearly 16%, buoyed by high-end spirits for home use while pubs increased orders as they reopened after coronavirus lockdowns.

The maker of Guinness, Johnnie Walker whisky and Tanqueray gin also said it will speed up its share buyback programme.

It is now aiming to complete the £4.5 billion plan in its 2023 financial year rather than by the end of June 2024.

Operating profit rose by 22.5% to £2.7 billion in the six months to December 31, with its operating margin up by 190 basis points, Diageo said.

Net sales increased by 15.8% to £8 billion.

The world's largest spirits maker has benefited from shoppers stocking up on alcohol at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, often trading up to more expensive types of alcohol.

Sales of premium products made up more than half of net sales.

Then as lockdowns eased, particularly in Europe and North America, bars have had to restock, buying more than the previous year. Net sales grew 13% in North America and were up 27% in Europe.

Rival Remy Cointreau this week said it is confident demand for its premium cognac in China, the US and Europe will underpin profit growth this year after the French spirits group beat quarterly sales forecasts.

The European beverages sector outperformed the wider market almost uniformly in the fourth quarter, Bernstein analysts said.

The distillers led the way while global brewers were more subdued because of rising raw material costs.

Shares in Diageo have repeatedly touched record highs since the company said in November that it expects organic net sales growth to be between 5% and 7% for its 2023-2025 financial years, compared to 4% to 6% growth over 2017-2019.