Barry Callebaut <BARN.S>, which makes chocolate for the likes of
Nestle <NESN.VX> and Mondelez <MDLZ.O>, said on Wednesday consumers
in the Americas in particular were flocking to premium chocolates.
That echoed comments from Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt & Spruengli <LISP.S>,
which beat full-year sales forecasts on Tuesday.
Consumer trends consultant Nielsen has said the global chocolate
market grew 3.4 percent in volume from September to November,
accelerating from 1.1 percent in the same period the year before, as
economies recover in Europe and North America.
Barry Callebaut, the world's largest maker of chocolate and cocoa
products, said its sales jumped 21.4 percent by value in the quarter — the first of its financial year — to 1.52 billion Swiss francs
($1.7 billion), beating forecasts and helped by higher prices for
cocoa beans, cocoa butter and milk powder.
However, its sales volumes rose 19.5 percent, below the 21.1 percent
forecast by analysts, and excluding the Petra Foods business it
bought in December 2012, volumes were up just 4.6 percent, down from
8.3 percent the same time the year before.
The Swiss-based company blamed the slowdown on a tough year-on-year
comparison, as well as fewer new deals to make chocolate for third
parties. Bottlenecks in western Europe also weighed on growth in the
region, though it said these were being addressed.
J. Safra Sarasin analyst Patrick Hasenboehler said the company's
volume growth was "slightly disappointing" and kept a "reduce"
rating on the stock, citing a stretched valuation.
But Vontobel's Jean-Philippe Bertschy said the slower volume growth
reflected a drive by management to focus on higher-margin
Shares in Barry Callebaut, up almost 30 percent since the end of
August, trade at 20.5 times forecast earnings, above Nestle's 18.6
times, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The stock was down 1.0 percent to 1,106 francs by 1015 GMT,
underperforming Europe's food and beverages index <.SX3P>.
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Outsourcing, such as a 2012 deal with Unilever <ULVR.L> <UNc.AS> to
supply chocolate for ice creams such as Magnum, has helped Barry
Callebaut to outpace generally sluggish growth in the global
chocolate market in recent years.
Some analysts have suggested that growth from outsourcing agreements
may start to slow.
However, Chief Executive Juergen Steinemann said the company had a
"full pipeline" of outsourcing deals.
The company confirmed its mid-term forecast for 6-8 percent volume
growth on average.
Barry Callebaut saw quarterly volumes rise 1.5 percent in Europe,
10.3 percent in the Americas and 7.4 percent in the Asia-Pacific.
Its cocoa unit performed particularly strongly with sales volumes up
91 percent driven by the Petra Foods deal.
($1 = 0.9008 Swiss francs)
(Editing by Mark Potter)
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