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Terrorism, weather make for 'challenging' chocolate market - Lindt

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Shares in the Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli fell on weaker than expected annual sales numbers.

The maker of high-end chocolate reported that 2015 sales rose 7.9%, to 3.65bn Swiss francs, behind the 3.74bn francs analysts forecast.

The company noted a "challenging market environment," over 2015, which may bode poorly for Friday's European cocoa demand data.

Lindt shares fell 4.6% to a four-month low.

'Sombre mood'

Lindt noted that it continues to outperform the chocolate markets as a whole, saying the sector "still lack major growth drivers".

The company cited the high price of cocoa, falling currencies in overseas markets, particularly in oil-exporting countries, and "extensive restructuring" among key companies.

In addition, Lindt noted "the unsettling effects of terrorist threats and concerns about deflation and unemployment all had an adverse effect on consumer sentiment".

"A hot summer and the late onset of winter deepened this sombre mood."

Grind data

Friday will see the release of data on the pace of cocoa grinding in Europe over the last three months of 2015.

Cocoa grinding, the processing of beans into powder, is a proxy for demand, and will give further insight into how far higher cocoa prices and some global economic worries have threatened consumption.

Grinding is expected to be up around 2-3% year on year.

Organic growth

Globally Lindt saw organic growth in sales, excluding acquisitions of 7.1%.

Denominated in local currencies, sales were up 13.5%.

But the group's earnings were reduced by the strength of the Swiss franc, which reduced the value of foreign currency earnings.

North American growth slows

Local currency organic sales growth, excluding new acquisitions, was 5.4% in European markets.

In North America, the company saw organic growth of 7.9%.

Sales growth in the region has slowed, as the group's recently acquired Russell Stover brand eliminated some unprofitable product lines.

And in the rest of the world, organic growth was 11.4%.

"Subsidiaries in Australia, Japan, Russia and Brazil made particularly good progress, recording double-digit growth," Lindt said.

Lindt shares were trading down 3.6% at 68,005 Swiss francs in afternoon deals in Zurich.


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