Japan is the second largest market for Hennessy, after the U.S., and followed by China.
Two years ago, the French cognac was hit by a boycott call from Japanese finance minister Masayoshi Takemurain in protest at France's resumption of nuclear tests in the Pacific.
Elsewhere in Asia, the brand is under threat from counterfeiters and from cheaper imports. Last year, new Hennessy packaging was introduced in China to fight counterfeits. And in Thailand, it faces an onslaught of secondary foreign brands. Veychai Thantha-Obhas, president and COO of Riche Monde (Bangkok) Ltd, distributors for Hennessy, Johnnie Walker and Hunter, said that low-priced imports had taken 30% of whisky sales in Thailand by last fall.
A secondary brand such as Spey Royal sells for $8 in Thailand, compared with $5.20 for local brand Black Cat and $38 for a 17-year-old Ballantine's or $17.60 for Johnnie Walker Red Label.
Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.