CORRECTED – UPDATE 2-Lindt sees appetite for chocolate returning

(Corrects Reuters instrument code to (LISP.S: ) in first
paragraph and top end of operating profit range to 340 million
Swiss francs, not 400 million, in second paragraph)

* 2009 profit 193.1 mln Swiss francs, vs forecast 192 mln

* Aims for 2010 organic growth of 5-7 pct

* Aims for 2010 EBIT of 300-340 mln francs

* Plans expansion in Asia

* Certificates rise 3 percent

By Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH, March 16 (BestGrowthStock) – Swiss chocolatier Lindt &
Spruengli (LISP.S: ) (LISN.S: ) is confident its strong brand and
recent investment will restore growth to long-term levels, after
subdued consumer demand and high cocoa prices hit 2009 profit.

The maker of gold-wrapped Easter bunnies said on Tuesday it
was aiming for organic growth of 5-7 percent this year and an
operating profit of 300 million to 340 million Swiss francs
($283 million to $320 million), only slightly below its
long-term targets.

Investment in production facilities in the United States as
well as spending in marketing and the brand should boost sales
in coming years, Lindt & Spruengli said.

The company is also counting on chocolate lovers in Asia to
boost its growth. A Lindt Chocolate Cafe is planned in Tokyo and
greater attention will be paid to China as well as Britain,
Russia and Scandinavia, Lindt said.

From 2011 onwards, the company wants to meet its long-term
targets again, aiming for an annual organic growth of 6-8
percent and an EBIT growth of 8-10 percent.

“The growth forecast is rather higher than expected,” said
Sarasin analyst Patrick Hasenboehler.

The group’s participation certificates were up 3.1 percent
to 2,350 francs at 0844 GMT, outperforming a slightly higher
STOXX European food and beverage sector index (.SX3P: )

DIVIDEND HIKE

The company’s position at the premium end of the market has
made it particularly vulnerable to competition from cheaper
brands, as consumers tightened their belts in the economic
downturn.

Lindt & Spruengli said it had nevertheless been able to step
up its market shares in most countries. While growth in Europe
remained weak, Lindt and its brand Ghirardelli outperformed
other premium labels in the United States, the company said.

In 2009, net profit dropped by more than a quarter to 193.1
million francs, in line with forecasts from a Reuters survey.

Operating profit fell to 264.8 million francs with a margin
of 10.5 percent, hit by high raw material prices and
restructuring costs for shop closures in the United States.

“The figures are relatively positive. The dividend and net
cash position both look good”, said Kepler’s Jon Cox.

Net liquidity more than tripled against the previous year to
356 million francs at the end of 2009. Lindt & Spruengli
proposed a dividend of 40 francs per participation certificate,
above analysts’ forecasts for 36 francs.

The chocolate maker published a slight drop in 2009 sales to
2.52 billion francs in January, hit by weak demand and a strong
franc. Organic growth in local currency terms was 2.3 percent.

Lindt & Spruengli’s participation certificates trade at
19.21 times estimated 2011 earnings, at a premium to Swiss rival
Barry Callebaut (BARN.S: ), the global leader in industrial
chocolate.

Investing Analysis

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Louise Heavens and
Erica Billingham)
($1 = 1.062 Swiss francs)

CORRECTED – UPDATE 2-Lindt sees appetite for chocolate returning