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Drinks giant Diageo sees share price slide after warning about sales in Caribbean and Latin America

A Diageo employee walks by barrels of whiskey stored in a new warehouse at the George Dickel distillery near Tullahoma, Tenn. on Aug. 14, 2014.
Erik Schelzig
/
AP
A Diageo employee walks by barrels of whiskey stored in a new warehouse at the George Dickel distillery near Tullahoma, Tenn. on Aug. 14, 2014.

LONDON — Spirits and beer giant Diageo PLC saw billions wiped off its market value on Friday after it warned that a sharp slowdown in its business in Latin America and the Caribbean was hitting sales and potential profits.

In early trading in London, the company's share price was down by 14% after it told investors that it expects growth in the first half of the current financial year to be slower than the previous half-year.

It blamed a “materially weaker” outlook in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of “macroeconomic pressures" and customers downtrading to cheaper products. The region accounts for around 11% of Diageo's total sales.

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That was a surprise for investors as the company, which counts Johnnie Walker whisky, Captain Morgan rum and Guinness among its stable of brands, had previously indicated a “gradual improvement” in sales growth.

The group highlighted that it still expects an improvement in growth in North America, while its businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific witnessed “continued momentum,” though slower than the previous half-year.

Debra Crew, chief executive of Diageo, also said it has also seen an impact from tensions in the Middle East and the conflict in Gaza.

“It has impacted results for the region since we have stopped trading in some parts," he said. “It is certainly not the largest part of Europe and Asia Pacific, but we have seen an impact since the tensions and it is weighing on consumer sentiment a little bit more broadly, but this has just been the last few weeks.”

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said Diageo has impenetrable brand power but that Friday's warning may stoke concerns that a "change in appetites could translate to other, larger markets.”

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