By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH (Reuters) – Barry Callebaut <BARN.S>, which makes chocolate and cocoa products for firms like Nestle <NESN.S> and Unilever <ULVR.L>, stuck to a sales volume growth target of 4-6% over the next three years, despite a slowdown in its most recent quarter.
Although global chocolate confectionery consumption is only growing slowly, Barry Callebaut says its focus on outsourcing contracts, its business with chefs and artisans and emerging markets allow it to outperform the market.
“Our business is extremely predictable in the medium term, but there is quite a bit of variation from quarter to quarter,” Chief Executive Antoine de Saint-Affrique told reporters on Wednesday after volume growth slowed in the final quarter of the group’s fiscal year from the previous quarter.
He said the Zurich-based company was confident for the coming year as it was working on a pipeline of outsourcing opportunities and could also do bolt-on acquisitions.
Sales volumes grew 5.1% to 2.14 million tonnes in the 12 months to Aug. 31., while net profit rose 6.9% in local currencies to 368.7 million Swiss francs ($371 million), the maker of berry-flavoured “ruby” chocolate said in a statement, proposing an 8% higher dividend of 26 francs per share.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said this was “a solid set of figures with excellent free cash flow and a dividend ahead of expectations”.
Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy said the trend was likely to continue. He attributed the weaker final quarter to a flat development in the Americas and in the gourmet and specialities business with artisans and chefs.
De Saint-Affrique said Barry Callebaut was working to fix its beverage business, which dragged down gourmet and specialities, but was confident of returning the unit to mid- to high-single digit growth.
Barry Callebaut shares, which have risen 36% so far this year, were down 1.25% at 0801 GMT.
($1 = 0.9927 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Michael Shields and Alexander Smith)