ZURICH - Reuters
Nestle FY growth outshines peers thanks to pet food, health products

Nestle wants to keep growing organic sales towards a mid-single-digit rate this year, the food giant said on Thursday, after strong demand for pet food and health products in the Americas helped its growth outshine peers last year.

Consumers kept buying packaged food throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and Nestle fared better than some rivals as it kept shedding underperforming businesses and investing in growth areas like plant-based food, coffee and health science.

Full-year organic sales, which strip out currency swings, acquisitions and divestitures, grew 3.6per cent in 2020, ahead of Nestle's own guidance for "around 3per cent" and peer Unilever's 1.9per cent underlying sales growth.

Analysts in a consensus https://www.nestle.com/investors/analysts-consensus compiled by Nestle were looking for 3.5per cent organic sales growth for the full year.

The company said it wanted to continue to increase its organic sales growth towards a mid-single-digit rate this year and sustain it over the mid-term.

Net profit fell 3per cent to 12.2 billion Swiss francs (US$13.58 billion), above a forecast for 11.97 billion francs. The year-ago period had benefited from a one-off gain linked to the sale of the skin health business.

The underlying operating margin improved to 17.7per cent last year, after reaching 17.6per cent and thus the group's mid-term profitability target range of 17.5-18.5per cent in 2019, a year earlier than planned.

The company proposed to increase the dividend to 2.75 francs per share for 2020, up from 2.70 francs last year. It also has a share buyback programme under way.

(US$1 = 0.8987 Swiss francs)

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