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Diageo says operating profit hit $2.43B in second half of 2012, up 61 percent on last year

Distiller Diageo PLC says that its net profit rose to 1.54 billion pounds ($2.43 billion) in the six months ending on Dec. 31, up 61 percent on the same period last year.

The company, whose brands include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, said Thursday that price hikes and strong American sales helped drive its growth.

The company is turning its focus to developing markets amid continuing uncertainty in Europe. Diageo announced a rise in net sales of 18 percent in Latin America, 6 percent in Asia, and new staff in Africa. Market gains in Turkey, Eastern Europe, and Russia weren't enough to offset losses in Western Europe; overall net sales in Europe fell 2 percent.

Shares in Diageo rose 0.08 percent to 1,854.5 pence each in early morning trading.