The world's leading chocolate maker, Barry Callebaut, has posted a 17.4 per cent rise in full-year net profit to SFr183 million ($147.1 million).
The Zurich-based company's positive results for 2005-2006, announced on Thursday, come after last year's bitter-sweet fall in profit, despite higher sales.
Barry Callebaut, a maker of chocolate for food manufacturers, artisans and chefs, said it welcomed the figures. The results were largely in line with analysts' expectations.
"We are pleased that we have again achieved very good results in fiscal year 2005/06, although we had a challenging fourth quarter due to a very hot summer in Europe, which impacted our volume growth" said CEO Patrick De Maeseneire in a statement.
"Most importantly, Consumer Products Europe has achieved a positive result; margins were improved and costs reduced. The business is now operating on a solid foundation."
In 2005 the group, whose financial years runs to the end of August, reported that profit was down 41 per cent to SFr68.3 million on the previous year, despite strong sales.
Restructuring and troubles in its consumer products unit accounted for the drop, the company said at the time.
Barry Callebaut said sales for this year had risen by 4.9 per cent to SFr4.262 billion, boosted by a good performance in the group food manufacturers and gourmet and specialties business in Europe, which had previously dragged down performance.
The recovery in the consumer product business helped increase the operating income by 13.5 per cent to SFr293.1 million.
"The Ebit [earnings before interest and tax] figure was disappointing as the hot weather in the summer melted some of its sales," said Kepler Equities analyst Jon Cox.
"However, the underlying investment case remains intact. It is not expensive and we expect a period of above trend growth given outsourcing by US producers and the trend to functional, health, organic, premium chocolate where Barry Callebaut has the sourcing expertise," he told Reuters.
The Swiss group, owner of the Switzerland Alprose chocolate brand and Brach's in the United States, also announced the departure of its chief financial officer Dieter Enkelmann, who will be replaced by Victor Balli.
Looking ahead, Barry Callebaut said it had extended its three-year financial targets by another year.
It said these targets were on average an annual top-line growth of three to five per cent, Ebit growth of eight to ten per cent and profit after tax growth of 12-15 per cent.
The company added it intended to "capture growth opportunities" in Europe, North America and Asia.
swissinfo with agencies
Zurich-based Barry Callebaut is the world's leading manufacturer of cocoa, chocolate and confectionary products – from the cocoa bean to the finished product.
It is present in 24 countries, operates more than 390 production facilities and employs approximately 8,000 people.
The company serves food manufacturers and professional users of chocolate (such as chocolatiers, pastry chefs or bakers).