UPDATE 1-North America contracts drive Compass revenue growth

Thu Feb 7, 2013 2:47am EST

* Q1 organic revenue growth of nearly 6 pct

* FY expectations remain positive and unchanged

* LfL revenue positive in N.America, emerging markets, negative in Europe

* Chairman Roy Gardner to retire

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Compass Group, the world's biggest catering firm, posted a six percent rise in first-quarter organic revenue, as contract wins in North America and emerging markets helped temper tougher conditions in Europe.

The firm, which operates in over 50 countries and serves 4 billion meals a year, said its large Ascension Health multi-service contract in its core North American market had contributed over 1 percent of global sales in the period, while levels of new business wins in the region was also healthy.

Like for like revenue was positive in North America - a business worth almost half of group revenue - as well as in emerging markets, where Australia, Turkey and Latin America were strong. In Europe, where it has reduced its southern operations and is cutting costs, underlying revenue was negative.

Compass, which provides catering to everyone from schools and hospitals to offshore rigs and the tennis at Wimbledon, also announced on Thursday that its chairman Roy Gardner is to retire and that it would now search for a replacement.

The group reaffirmed its expectations for the full-year.

Last month French rival Sodexo posted a 7.4 percent rise in first-quarter revenue to 4.95 billion euros ($6.7 billion), driven by emerging markets growth.

Shares in FTSE 100-listed Compass, which in November posted a 9 percent rise in underlying operating profit to just under 1.2 billion pounds for its last full-year, closed at 765.5 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at around 14 billion pounds ($21.9 billion).