LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Britain's Compass Group, the world's biggest catering firm, posted a 4 percent rise in third quarter underlying sales and said it was confident of meeting full year forecasts.
Compass, whose clients include schools and hospitals to tennis players at Wimbledon, said on Wednesday a 6.4 percent sales rise in its core North American arm had led the in-line performance.
Fast growing and emerging markets revenue grew 6.5 percent while the decline in its Europe and Japan arm, where the firm has cut costs and exited weak contracts, eased to 1.2 percent.
The group had posted organic sales growth of 4.2 percent for the first half of its financial year. It said its operating margin had risen by 10 basis points in the third quarter.
Compass, which serves around 3 billion meals a year, did flag the impact of strengthening sterling against many of its key currencies. It said if current spot rates were to continue it would expect a negative hit of 7.3 percent, or 92 million pounds ($156 million) on 2013 underlying operating profit.
The group is expected on average to post a full year pretax profit of 1.16 billion pounds according to a Reuters poll of 19 analysts.
Earlier this month World No. 2 catering group Sodexo cut its annual sales target due contract delays but stuck to its profit target. ID:nL6N0PK0X9] ($1 = 0.5904 British Pounds) (Reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by James Davey)