Fromageries Bel, the French cheese maker, has posted an increase in profits for 2007 despite the rising cost of milk weighing on the business in the second half of the year.

Bel booked operating profit of EUR129.1m (US$201.2m), up 5.9% on the year as rising cheese sales drove up turnover. Revenue reached EUR1.9bn, an increase of 10.6% on the year.

The company behind brands like The Laughing Cow and Babybel said cheese sales rose 8.5%. Bel's move to integrate its recent acquisitions in Ukraine and Iran also contributed to the rise in revenue, the company said.

Nevertheless, Bel said its operating margins had "fallen slightly" during 2007, as it was unable to fully pass on the rising cost of milk with higher prices.

The company also endured a fall in the price of whey, a by-product from the cheese-making process.

Bel warned that "volatility" in raw material prices would have an impact on the company this year but said the integration of the recently-acquired Boursin brand would boost its business.