Lindt & Sprüngli announces sweet returns
Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli has posted a record net profit of SFr209 million ($172.7 million) for 2006, up 21 per cent on the previous year.
Turnover was up by 14 per cent to SFr2.58 billion, with particularly strong sales registered in North America – for the first time exceeding $500 million.
In a statement on Thursday the firm said that all sectors of the group had contributed to the impressive overall growth.
"Owing to many innovative products and outstanding marketing activities, the group once again outpaced the growth of the overall chocolate market many times over, leading to substantial gains of market shares," it declared.
Earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) increased by 19 per cent to SFr296.9 million – the highest increase in the group's history.
The company, which is based near Zurich, confirmed its mid-term goals of achieving sales growth of six to eight per cent and operating profit growth of eight to ten per cent.
"The results were strong and the company benefits from the trend to premium chocolate, particularly among Anglo-Saxon countries, which have traditionally preferred their chocolate cheap and sugary," Kepler Equities analyst Jon Cox said.
"[The company has] excellent products and excellent management. However, we have a question mark about valuation and believe [the firm] benefited from problems with competitors last year, for example at Nestlé, Cadbury and Hershey. This might not happen again in 2007," he said.
The group said its directors would propose raising its dividend to SFr275 per registered share from SFr225, and to SFr27.50 per participation certificate from SFr22.50.
The firm also unveiled its biggest-ever investment programme, saying it would spend SFr500 million over three years on new facilities.
It said it would invest in several locations, improving the processing, storage and logistics at eight facilities it operates, including several in the United States.
swissinfo with agencies
The Swiss originally learned chocolate making from the Italians, but pioneered mass production methods to become world leaders themselves.
The first chocolate factory in Switzerland was opened by François-Louis Cailler in 1819 near Vevey, and is still working today.
The Swiss can claim credit for inventing numerous production techniques from the cocoa-sugar mixer (Phillipe Suchard), to the conch (Rodolphe Lindt), which makes chocolate smooth.
They were also the first to make milk chocolate, and to include nuts and fillings.
Lindt and Sprüngli was founded by Rodolphe Lindt in 1845. The company was bought by Johann Rudolph Sprüngli in 1899.
Financial results for 2006:
Consolidated sales - SFr2.586 billion (+15.1 per cent)
Ebit - SFr296.9 million (+19.4 per cent)
Net income - SFr209 million (+21 per cent)
Dividend - SFr275 per registered share (previous year SFr225)
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