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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brown-Forman sees India sales share doubling in 5 years

NEW DELHI, Sept 19 (Reuters) - U.S. wine and spirit company Brown-Forman Corp (BFa.N: Quote, Profile, Research) (BFb.N: Quote, Profile, Research) sees sales in India contributing 3 percent of its annual income in the next five years, double the figure now, a top official said.

"The Indian market is extremely important for us. It is the world's largest whisky market," Amrit Singh, area director of the maker of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

In 2007, Brown-Forman's global sales were $2.81 billion. For 2008, an average of analysts' forecasts suggest sales of $3.14 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Singh said the Indian government could gain more revenue through increased sales of imported spirits if it reduces import tariffs.

With rising incomes, greater international exposure and more choice in the market, more and more Indians have been willing to buy premium alcohol brands.

But high import tariffs, which can add as much as 300 percent to prices, have dampened growth in demand for foreign brands in India, one of the world's biggest spirits markets.

In July, India withdrew an additional customs duty for wines and spirits after both the European Union and the United States filed challenges at the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body.

"It is in India's interest if it gets faster", Singh said, referring to the pace of reductions in tariffs.

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