Swiss confectionery group Lindt & Sprüngli has reported organic sales growth of 7.6 per cent for 2002, a performance which it said was well ahead of the market as a whole.
But when the figures are converted into Swiss francs, the company's sales showed a 3.7 per cent decline, due almost entirely to the strength of the Swiss currency against the US dollar.
In fact, it was only because the company was able to adjust the sales figures from its French subsidiary - which had been set too low in the past - that Lindt & Sprüngli was able to report an actual sales increase of 5.6 per cent to SF1.7 billion (€1.15bn) for the year as a whole.
Operating profits before interest and taxes (EBIT) increased by 7.8 per cent to SF170.8 million, while net profits showed an even better improvement and rose by 11.4 per cent to SF101.9 million.
The company said that it was encouraged by the performance, coming as it did against the background of difficult economic conditions, "characterised by negative consumer mood, ongoing trade concentration and the unrestrained competitive pricing".
As we have reported over the last few weeks, the Swiss confectionery sector as a whole has had a turbulent year, with domestic sales of chocolate severely reduced as a result of declining tourist numbers and a hot summer but exports rising despite the strength of the currency.
At the same time, sugar confectionery sales also improved on export markets, while cheap imports depressed sales on the domestic market.
Lindt said that the progress that it had made during the year reflected consumer confidence in the company, whose brands include Lindor, Fioretto and Excellence. This, it said, had been built up over a number of years and was now paying off in difficult times.