China Mengniu returns to black in 2017, lags forecasts

HONG KONG, March 28 Reuters) - China Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd said it returned to profit in 2017, helped by low raw milk prices, tighter control over costs and expenses, and solid sales growth for its milk and yogurt products.

China’s biggest manufacturer said late on Tuesday annual net profit came in at 2.05 billion yuan ($326.5 million), compared with a loss of 751 million yuan in the prior year when its unit Yashili International Holdings booked a heavy impairment loss on its goodwill.

The result missed a Thomson Reuters StarMine Smart Estimate of 2.3 billion yuan drawn from 26 analysts. Smart Estimates give greater weighting to more accurate analysts.

Revenue rose 11.9 percent to 60.16 billion yuan. Gross profit margin increased 2.4 percentage points from a year ago to 35.2 percent amid relatively low raw milk prices and an improving product mix.

Mengniu is stepping up development and sales of premium products that are gaining favour with Chinese consumers and is working with partners like Danone Group and Arla Foods to bring more dairy goods to China.