PARIS, April 18 (Reuters) - French food group Danone kept its guidance for a further rise in profits and sales this year after first quarter underlying sales growth beat market expectations, led by strong demand for baby formula products in China.
Danone, the world’s largest yoghurt maker whose brands include Actimel and Activia, said its dairy business in Europe was improving although sales remained slightly negative.
In North America, where Danone is integrating U.S. organic food group WhiteWave, its premium dairy business also still faced challenging conditions.
Danone reported a 4.9 percent rise in first-quarter underlying sales to 6.085 billion euros ($7.53 billion).
The quarterly performance was above a company-compiled median forecast, based on 22 analyst estimates, of 3.9 percent like-for-like growth in group sales.
It also marked an acceleration from 3.7 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.
For 2018, Danone reiterated it expected a double-digit rise in 2018 underlying earnings per share (EPS), excluding the impact of the sale of a stake in Japan’s Yakult.
$1 = 0.8082 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta