Danone earnings rise as sales of waters surge

by Jeff Gelski
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PARIS – Earnings and sales increased for Groupe Danone in fiscal year 2011, a year that saw rising bottled water sales, especially in emerging markets. Underlying net income in the year ended Dec. 31, 2011, was €1,749 million ($2,287 million), or €2.89 per share, which was up 6.7% from €1,674 million, or €2.72 per share, in the previous fiscal year. Fiscal-year net sales rose 7.8% to €19,318 million ($25,257 million) from €17,010 million.

“The year 2011 was both tough and positive,” said Franck Riboud, chairman and chief executive officer of Paris-based Groupe Danone, when results were given Feb. 15. “Tough because of the increasingly gloomy macro-economic environment in Europe, plus a steep rise in commodity prices that put pressure on our costs and entire organization. But also positive because we came through successfully. First and foremost, our results made 2011 a successful year, as we once again met all our targets.”

The company’s Waters business line had like-for-like sales growth of 16% in 2011. Sales of €3,229 million ($4,221 million) compared to €2,868 million in the previous fiscal year. Like-for-like sales grew 23% in the fourth quarter. Mild weather contributed to growth for the waters category in Western Europe.

Emerging markets such as Indonesia, Mexico, China and Argentina accounted for 73% of the water category sales growth in the fiscal year.

In the fresh dairy products business line, 2011 sales of €11,235 million compared to €9,732 million in the previous fiscal year. Sales increased in North America behind the strength of the Oikos brand of Greek yogurt.

In baby nutrition, sales of €3,673 million in 2011 compared to €3,355 million in 2010. In medical nutrition, sales of €1,181 million in 2011 compared to €1,055 million in 2010.

Companywide in the fourth quarter, Groupe Danone had sales of €4,786 million, which compared to €4,299 million in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Mr. Riboud said the company anticipates no improvement in the economic environment or in consumer spending in 2012. The company will target like-for-like sales growth of 5% to 7% in 2012.

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