The Swiss confectionery firm's half-year results for the period ended 28 February 2006 also showed lower sales of semi-finished products as a consequence of the company's growing in-house need for cocoa liquor and butter.
However, the group was boosted by increased cocoa bean sales, positive exchange rates and moderately higher cocoa prices.
The results, says Barry Callebaut, illustrate the degree to which the cocoa and confectionery business is seasonal, and affected by external events.
"Our business is seasonal," said Barry Callebaut CEO Patrick De Maeseneire.
"With the late Easter holiday this year, some volumes are expected to shift from the second to the third quarter. Efficiency improvements in our European consumer business are coming along as planned, and we are confident we'll make further progress and achieve profitability for this business unit in fiscal year 2005/06.
"We expect a further decline in the combined (cocoa) ratio, having an effect on the profitability of our cocoa business unit in the second half of this fiscal year as well as in 2006/07. Nevertheless, and despite changes in the accounting standards (IFRS) with regard to employee stock ownership programmes, we confirm the communicated financial targets for the 3-year period 2004/05 through 2006/07.
"This as always, of course, barring any major unforeseen events."
Operating profit (EBIT) for the six months increased by 10.8 per cent to CHF 177.0 million and net profit (PAT) grew by 11.3 per cent to CHF 112.7 million. EBIT per tonne, the key indicator for operational performance, went up by 12.4 per cent to CHF 320 per tonne, up from CHF 285 per tonne in the same prior-year period.
The company claims that all business units contributed positively to the increase of this ratio.
In the cocoa business unit sales revenue increased by 44.9 per cent to CHF 364.6 million, up from CHF 251.7 million. This increase resulted from the significantly higher sales of cocoa beans in the second quarter.
However, cocoa products sold to third-party customers decreased by 4.2 per cent to 63,906 tonnes.
Sales volumes in the food manufacturers business unit were 301,773 tonnes, up 4.7 per cent from 288,331 tonnes, resulting from higher sales mainly in North America, Germany and the U.K.
Sales revenue recorded in the industrial business segment meanwhile grew by 16.4 per cent to CHF 1,316.0 million compared to CHF 1,130.1 million in the same prior-year period.
"During the first six months of fiscal year 2005/06 we have been able to further grow our profitability, and we have made considerable progress in our European consumer business," said De Maeseneire.
"We are pleased with our half-year results, especially in view of a late Easter in 2006."