LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Diageo, the world's largest spirits maker, reported lower-than-expected sales for the six months to December, hurt by foreign exchange rates and intensified discounting on vodka in the United States, its biggest and most profitable market.
The maker of Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness stout warned last month that U.S. Thanksgiving sales were disappointing and that it expected sales to be broadly flat in the region, where competition among vodka makers has sharpened as trendy drinkers moved to brown spirits such as bourbon.
Elsewhere, Diageo has been plagued by volatility in emerging markets, from a crackdown on extravagant spending in China to an economic slowdown in Brazil.
Overall, Diageo said net sales in the six months to Dec. 31, the first half of its fiscal year, fell about 1 percent to 5.9 billion pounds. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of 6 billion pounds.
Earnings before one-off items were 53.7 pence per share. (Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by David Clarke)