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China liquor maker Moutai flags strong 2017 sales, sees slower growth next year

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Kweichow Moutai Co will raise the factory-gate price of its core liquor product by an average 18 per cent in 2018, the first time in five years that the world's most valuable liquor maker has lifted the selling price of its widely popular signature drink.

[SHANGHAI] Chinese liquor maker Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd said on Thursday it expects revenue to have jumped 50 per cent this year but added that sales growth would moderate sharply in 2018, with the firm aiming for a rise of at least 10 per cent.

This year's robust demand for its high-end bottles of fiery spirit baijiu comes after several sluggish years when lavish spending was hit by a government crackdown on corruption.

The rebound has in turn propelled its share price higher with Moutai now boasting a market value of about US$128 billion - the biggest of any alcohol firm in the world and 43 per cent higher than nearest rival Diageo.

Moutai said it expected 2017 revenue would top 60 billion yuan (S$12.3 billion), with the 50 per cent growth rate marking its strongest rise since 2011.

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Profits would grow around 58 per cent, the firm said in a filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, without specifying what type of profit.

In the third quarter Moutai, whose bottles can sell for over US$300 a pop, saw its revenues and profits more than double - the sharpest quarterly rises in over half a decade.

Moutai also said it would increase product prices by an average of 18 per cent next year.

The firm's shares, which have more than doubled this year, were up around 3.5 per cent in trading on Thursday morning. The stock retreated from record highs in November after it cautioned investors about its fast share price rise.

Moutai, a household name in China, was once hailed as helping its Red Army survive the tortuous Long March in the 1930s. The pungent, colourless spirit baijiu, usually made from sorghum, outsells vodka worldwide.

REUTERS