Chief appeals to governments

Diageo CEO makes Brexit plea to ‘protect Scotch jewel’

Ivan MenezesSpirits giant Diageo wants firm action to protect its Scotch whisky business and global trade following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

After reporting a return to growth across the company’s portfolio, chief executive Ivan Menezes issued a plea to the UK and Scottish governments on behalf of what he called one of the “jewels” of British business.

Scotch accounts for 25% of the business which makes the top-selling Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky.

“Out of Brexit, our focus is really on ensuring that we keep Scotch whisky healthy,” he said in an interview in the US.

“Johnnie Walker was in over 100 markets long before Coca-Cola left the shores of America,” he told CNBC.

“Our business is built on global trade and that to me is the most important aspect we want to keep so the Scotch whisky industry and our business remains competitive and healthy.”

Asked about the risk of a Scottish independence vote, he said: “Regardless of what happens we have to make sure this vibrant, very successful export business, which has a terrific runway ahead, has the conditions in place to compete on the global stage.

“Both with the UK and Scottish governments our message is very clear – create the conditions to keep what truly is one of the jewel businesses in the UK and in Scotland healthy and thriving. We in the industry and the Scotch Whisky Association are making that point very clear.”

Diageo reported a return to growth after two flat years caused by a slowdown in emerging markets.

The company, whose brands include Smirnoff vodka and Guinness, said operating profit grew 3.5% and net sales 2.8% on a like-for-like basis in the year ended 30 June.

The board recommended a final dividend increase of 5% bringing the full year dividend to 59.2p per share.

Mr Menezes said: “This is a good set of results delivering what we set out to achieve this time last year and demonstrating our momentum.”

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