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Campari boss says cost of living crisis not deterring drinkers

By Elisa Anzolin

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian spirits group Campari sees no sign that concerns over inflation are deterring drinkers who still want to enjoy a night out as the winter party season looms in Europe and the United States.

"We are not seeing any change in consumer sentiment in our portfolio," Campari Chief Executive Bob Kunze-Concewitz said on a call.

"The off premise (business) has slowed down in its growth, but this is from a high, high level, but the on-premise is very vibrant in all our markets," the CEO added, highlighting demand from drinkers heading out to bars and restaurants.

He was speaking after Campari, whose brands also include Aperol and Wild Turkey, reported a 19% rise in sales in the third quarter, covering the key northern summer season, helped by price increases.

The strong U.S. dollar also boosted the group's sales and profitability, as the United States is Campari's single largest market.

Campari confirmed its full-year forecast for a flat organic margin on its EBIT-adjusted earnings, with higher sales prices helping to offset the impact of rising costs for alcohol, glass and logistics.

During the call, Kunze-Concewitz said "never say never" when asked whether Campari might seek a transformational deal that would propel it higher in the ranks of global premium spirits companies.

Speaking to Reuters, he highlighted the importance of the U.S. market for potential expansion and said the company wanted to grow its business in aged spirits.

Campari said it recently acquired a minority stake in London-based Catalyst Spirits, a global spirits brand incubator company and the main shareholder of Howler Head.

Earlier this year, Campari bought a 15% stake in bourbon brand Howler Head with global distribution rights.

($1 = 0.9961 euros)

(Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Bill Berkrot)