PARIS, April 16 Danone, which is
aiming to rebuild its position in China after an infant formula
product recall in Asia last year, said first-quarter sales fell
7.7 percent at its high-margin baby food division, less than
analysts had expected.
The world's largest yoghurt maker, with brands including
Actimel and Activia, said its European dairy business continued
to improve in the quarter and kept its full-year sales and
profitability goals, saying it was targeting a return to
"strong, sustainable, profitable growth" from the second half.
Like-for-like group sales grew 2.2 percent year-on-year in
the quarter, a slowdown from 2.9 percent growth in the fourth
quarter of 2013, Danone said on Wednesday.
The performance was slightly better than the
company-compiled average analyst estimates of 2.1 percent growth
in group sales and a 9 percent decline in baby food sales.
Total sales, which include the effects of foreign exchange
fluctuations, reached 5.06 billion euros ($7 billion), a
reported decline of 5.2 percent due to negative currency
Danone kept its 2014 target of like-for-like sales growth of
4.5-5.5 percent. It also stuck to a forecast for its 2014
operating margin to be stable within a range of 20 basis points
lower to 20 basis points higher.
($1 = 0.7234 Euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)