Danone eyes sales acceleration in 2014

PARIS Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:45am EST

PARIS Feb 20 (Reuters) - French food group Danone said sales growth would accelerate this year as a recovery in European dairy gathers momentum and as it seeks to rebuild demand eroded by an Asian recall of high-margin infant formula products.

The world's largest yoghurt maker predicted that its 2014 operating margin would be stable within a range of 20 basis points lower to 20 basis points higher, having fallen 81 basis points to 13.19 percent in 2013, in line with a company-compiled consensus of analysts.

The maker of Activia and Actimel yoghurt, Evian water and Bledina baby food said underlying sales in 2013 grew 4.8 percent to 21.298 billion euros ($29.29 billion), above analysts estimates of 4.7 percent growth.

This was in line with Danone's 4.5-5 percent forecast range given in October and topped the 4.6 percent achieved by Swiss rival Nestle.

For this year, Danone set a goal of underlying sales growth of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. ($1 = 0.7271 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)