UPDATE 1-Kerry expects earnings growth of 8-12 pct
* Like-for-like sales revenue up 7.3 percent in first 9 months
* Says maintains margins in ingredients despite cost inflation
By Conor Humphries
DUBLIN, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Irish food group Kerry reaffirmed its full-year earnings target of 8-12 percent on Wednesday, saying it had managed to maintain margins in its key ingredients business despite rising costs.
Kerry, Ireland's third biggest listed company by value, said like-for-like sales revenue in the first nine months of 2011 grew 7.3 percent, down from 8.4 percent in the six months to June.
"While continuing input cost inflation impacted some categories, performance was solid across all regions," the company said in a statement.
Its consumer foods division, which include Wall's sausages, Homepride flour and Cheesestrings snacks, saw volume growth of 1.6 percent, despite a decline of 2 percent in its home Irish market.
The company earned about two-thirds of its revenues last year from its ingredients and flavours business, with the remainder coming from consumer foods.
Kerry said it was confident of achieving its targets for the full year of growth of adjusted earnings per share of 8-12 percent.
"The headline volume numbers are broadly as we expected, maybe a tad behind," said Liam Igoe, an analyst with Goodbody stockbrokers, who described the performance as "solid."
"Pricing is a bit stronger, but clearly some pressure on costs that seems to be working its way through the system."
Kerry's focus on exports has allowed it to escape the broader collapse of the Irish equity market. While the broader market has lost more than three-quarters of its value from its 2007 peak, Kerry's has increased by 13 percent.
Kerry's share price slipped 0.4 percent to 26.05 euros on Wednesday, underperforming a general index up 0.3 percent.