Swiss franc hurts chocolate maker

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The world's biggest industrial chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut, said on Wednesday that its first quarter sales figure was hit by the strength of the Swiss franc.

Sales in the first three months of its 2010-2011 accounting year -- ending November -- grew by just 4.9 percent in Swiss francs to 1.5 billion francs (1.2 billion euros, $1.5 billion), despite growth of 14.2 percent measured in local currencies and 5.6 percent in volume.

"Due to unfavourable exchange rate developments, in particular the strengthening of the Swiss franc against the euro and the US dollar, sales revenue in the reporting currency was negatively affected," the group said in a statement.

"Whereas emerging markets again showed gratifying GDP growth rates, the economic environment in Western Europe and North America was mixed but still better overall," chief executive Juergen Steinemann said.

The chocolate supplier, which is also a substantial player on cocoa markets, said prices of the commodity had eased back from historic highs during the period but remained volatile.

The volume of semi-finished cocoa products and beans sold to third party suppliers grew by 19.2 percent in volume to 68,564 tonnes in its first quarter, driven by demand in Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Barry Callebaut operates 40 plants in 26 countries, with business ranging from cocoa production to raw chocolate supplies and finished chocolates for other household brands.

© 2011 AFP

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