PARIS, April 16 French food group Danone
said business improved at its core dairy unit in the
United States and Russia and kept its full-year goals after
first-quarter sales growth beat expectations.
The world's largest yoghurt maker, with brands including
Actimel and Activia, said sales remained weak in austerity-hit
Southern Europe and that it expected consumer trends in Europe
to stay negative this year.
Like-for-like sales grew 5.6 percent in the quarter, beating
company-compiled analysts' forecasts for 4.2 percent growth,
driven by robust demand for baby food, medical nutrition and
Total sales, which include the effects of foreign exchange
fluctuations, reached 5.338 billion euros ($6.98 billion), a
reported rise of 4.3 percent.
Danone kept its 2013 target of like-for-like sales growth of
at least 5 percent and of a decline of between 30 and 50 basis
points in operating margin.
Danone, which competes with Nestle and Unilever
, is the most exposed among big food groups to
the euro zone debt crisis and is under presure from U.S.
activist shareholder Nelson Peltz to improve its performance.
($1 = 0.7643 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Christian Plumb)