Swiss baking group Aryzta reaffirmed its guidance for 2012 and 2013 as it booked an increase in underlying profit during the first six months of its financial year.

The company said today (12 March) that first-half EBIT rose to EUR122.6m (US$169.8m) for the six months to 31 January, up from EUR116.2m last year. Sales edged up 0.9% to EUR1.91bn.

At the firm's food unit, which focuses on speciality baking, sales in Europe increased 7.5% while North American revenues gained 9.6% and sales in the rest of the world rose 21% from a low base point.

However, revenues at Origin - Aryzta's 71.4%-owned agri-services business - fell by 17% to EUR507.4m and underlying net profit fell by 42.6%. The group said that Origin's performance was "to expectation" following repositioning.

Net profit was weighed down by costs and the comparison was hit by a one-time gain last year.

The fall played a role in Aryzta's net profit dropping 56.3% to EUR71.9m, the company revealed. One-time costs from its food business totalled EUR15.1m, while acquisition, disposal and restructuring related costs and fair value adjustments totalled EUR24.8m, compared to a gain of EUR74.3m last year.

"Underlying performance was robust, despite challenging trading conditions," Owen Killian, Aryzta's chief executive, said.

Killian said 2012 would be a "critical year" for the Aryzta Transformation Initiative (ATI), which aims to improve competitiveness as the company's food operations in North America and Europe move to a single enterprise resource planning platform.

"Significant ATI-driven change [is] under way across the group to enhance our customer-centric focus. This, combined with our strengthened balance sheet, will enhance future shareholder value from growth with existing customers and sector consolidation opportunities," he said.

Aryzta reiterated its EPS guidance of 338 cents for 2012 and above 400 cents for 2013.

According to Kepler analyst Jon Cox, the company expects improved consumer confidence in North America to continue to offset an ongoing challenging environment in Europe, helping underlying growth.

Commenting on Aryzta's first-half, Cox wrote: "The result was in line with expectations with North America growth acceleration offsetting a sluggish Europe."