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Cocoa boost helps AAK shares hit record high

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Vegetable fats processor AAK reported a higher than expected rise in profits, helped by a boost to its chocolate division from elevated cocoa prices, which spurred demand for alternatives made by the group.

Shares in the Swedish-based group hit a record high.

AAK reported operating profits for the January-to-March quarter of SEK321m a rise of 12% year on year, and ahead of the SEK310m result that investors had expected.

The "high and solid" performance was driven by a "continued strong improvement" in the chocolate and confectionery fats division, which raised operating profits by 17% to SEK136m, said Arne Frank, the AAK chief executive.

He added that the division was expected to be one of the "main drivers" in the "continued positive underlying development" of the group, over which he was "prudently optimistic about the future".

Butter boost

The rise in chocolate division operating profits came despite a drop of 6% in sales volumes, reflecting "severely deteriorating market conditions in Ukraine and Russia", amid the region's economic and political unrest.

Divisional sales by value rose by 7% to SEK 1.26bn, as higher value products accounted for a greater share of trade, with the rising popularity of AAK's alternatives for cocoa butter boosting margins too.

A rise of 25% to SEK1.89 in the business's average operating profit per kilogramme of product was in the main down to a "higher proportion of cocoa butter equivalent in the total product mix, supported by a high cocoa butter price".

Cocoa butter prices have been supported by values of beans themselves, which during the January-to-March quarter averaged well above the £1,822 a tonne they did on London's futures exchange in the first quarter of 2014, on Commerzbank estimates.

London cocoa futures traded between £1,891 a tonne and £2,062 a tonne in the first quarter of 2015, on a front contract basis.

Shares rise

AAK, which makes its cocoa alternatives from the likes of shea butter, underlined that it expected "continued improvement" at its chocolate and confectionery fats division.

AAK shares stood 1.9% higher at SEK 530.00 in lunchtime deals in Stockholm, earlier hitting an all-time high of SEK533.00.


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