Cloetta Fazer, the confectionery group created in 2000 via the merger of Sweden's Cloetta and Finland's Fazer, has reported a "significant" increase in earnings for the third quarter of the year, helped by double-digit sales growth in Finland.
Pre-tax profits for the third quarter rose 33 per cent to SKr96 million (€10.5m), on sales up from SKr703 million to SKr721 million. For the first nine months of the year, sales were up from SKr2.07 billion to SKr2.1 billion on a like-for-like basis, while operating profits were up from SKr233 million to SKr249 million.
Pre-tax profits for the nine month period were down from SKr411 million to SKr256 million, but the previous year's figures were swollen by the SKr170 million in one-off gains from the sale of the group's Business Area Handel unit.
Volumes increased by 1 per cent in Sweden and by 9 per cent in Finland during the nine month period, and the company increased its market share in both countries. Sweden and Finland alone account for 60 per cent of the group's sales, with Poland, the third-largest market, accounting for a further 10 per cent, despite a 7 per cent decline in volumes there.
"Our third quarter earnings are strong," said Cloetta Fazer's CEO Karsten Slotte. "In the third quarter of 2002, we achieved a 15 per cent sales increase in Finland, which is our second largest market. In Sweden, our largest market, the sales volume was on par with the preceding year. However, in both countries it is clear that the positive sales trend for our key brands is continuing.
"The Polish market is undergoing a structural transformation in which the major international chains are establishing themselves in the market at the expense of traditional small retailers. Our sales are begin successively adapted to the new market conditions, resulting in a temporary drop in volume."
Commenting on the group's likely performance in the rest of the year, Slotte said: "For Cloetta Fazer, Christmas in the most important period of the year in terms of sales. The fourth quarter accounts for more than one third of our annual profit. However, in the final quarter of the year, rising cocoa prices will have an impact that cannot be immediately offset through higher sales prices."
The Cloetta Fazer Group is the Nordic region's largest confectionery company, with a market share of 22 per cent. The company has its own production plants and sales companies in Sweden, Finland and Poland, a co-owned and sales company in Norway, representation offices in the Baltic countries and sales agents in all other countries. Its brands include Fazer Bla, Kexchoklad, Dumle, Geisha, Center and Polly.