July 9, 2020 / 8:36 AM / a month ago

Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut confident of rebound

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut raised its sales forecast for the next three years on Thursday on expectations that demand from major food companies would recover quickly even if restaurants and bakeries continued to struggle.

FILE PHOTO: Empoyees of chocolate and cocoa product maker Barry Callebaut prepare chocolates after the company's annual news conference in Zurich, Switzerland November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The company, which makes chocolate for global food giants such as Nestle and Unilever, raised its outlook for annual sales volume growth to an average 5%-7% from 4%-6% for the three-year period starting in September.

It said a new outsourcing contract with an unidentified customer would help boost volumes from September and there could be new opportunities for partnerships as companies review their business models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the countries that have been managing COVID tightly, you definitely see a gradual improvement,” Chief Executive Antoine de Saint-Affrique told reporters, mentioning Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain and countries in Asia.

Analysts said the higher forecasts were a strong sign of confidence though a rebound next year had already been largely factored in and acquisitions might help.

The company’s shares rose more than 3% in early trade and were 1.5% higher by 0815 GMT.

The revised forecasts were based on the assumption that there would be no more national lockdowns and did not apply to the company’s current fiscal year which ends in August, it said.

Saint-Affrique declined to give a forecast for its 2019-20 financial year.

Sales volumes fell 1.3% in the nine months to the end of May though revenue measured in local currencies edged 0.4% higher to 5.2 billion Swiss francs ($5.6 billion).

In the third quarter, when COVID-19 lockdowns kicked in, sales fell 14.3% as the volume of chocolate sold to gourmet clients nearly halved and sales to food manufacturers fell 9.7%.

Saint-Affrique said its business with food manufacturers would recover faster than its gourmet chocolate division, which was hit badly as restaurants and bakeries shut their doors.

($1 = 0.9365 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Riham Alkousaa, Michael Shields and David Clarke

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