PARIS, April 18 (Reuters) - French catering and vouchers group Sodexo forecast flat operating profit this year and said it would expand its cost-cutting programme as it battles a “particularly difficult” economic environment.
Operating income in the first half to Feb. 28 slipped 1.1 percent excluding restructuring costs and currency effects to 528 million euros ($688.6 million), below the average of analyst forecasts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 557 million.
Sodexo forecast organic sales growth of between 1 and 2 percent for the full year, following a 2.1 percent rise in the first half to 9.46 billion euros.
The group said it would enlarge its cost-cutting programme, leading to charges of 180-200 million euros in the 18 months through February 2014 and similar savings as of fiscal 2015. This compares with 130-150 million previously targeted. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Dominique Vidalon)