February 14, 2013 / 6:30 AM / in 5 years

Nestle sees challenges ahead as 2012 results in line

* Organic growth 5.9 pct vs 5.9 pct forecast

* Sales 92.2 bln Sfr vs 92.2 bln Sfr forecast

* Reiterates 5-6 pct organic growth target for 2013

VEVEY, Switzerland, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Nestle’s said it expected 2013 to be as challenging as 2012 as it reported sales growth picked up in the last three months of 2012 after a disappointing third-quarter for the world’s biggest food group.

Underlying sales growth at the maker of KitKat chocolate bars and Maggi soup came in at 5.9 percent for the year, meeting average analyst expectations, and implying a slight recovery from just 5 percent third-quarter growth.

Growth in Asia, Oceania and Africa, which accounted for about one fifth of sales, came in at 8.4 percent. Third-quarter sales in the region took a surprise hit from one-off events such as typhoons in the Philippines, social unrest in Egypt and business disruptions due to sanctions on Iran.

Despite the challenges, Chief Executive Paul Bulcke said Nestle still expects to meet its standard outlook for 5-6 percent underlying sales growth this year as well as improved margin and underlying earnings per share in constant currencies.

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