French food group Danone has reported a 15.8% rise in net income from continuing operations for the full year to EUR1.19bn (US$1.56bn).
Net sales rose by 8.1% to EUR14bn, while trading operating income was up by 10.1% at EUR1.9bn. Underlying earnings per fully diluted share from continuing activities increased by 17.9% to EUR4.88.

"2006 was another year of strong performance and progress at Danone," said chairman and CEO Franck Riboud. "We saw excellent top line growth in the period, which exceeded our targets, helped by a strong second half performance and an exceptionally strong Q4. Profitability also increased on a like-for-like basis at both the operating and net income levels with margins growing strongly for the twelfth consecutive year."

Riboud added: "Growth is driven by our clear strategic focus on innovation, our strength in healthy foods, our strong market positions and by enhancing our geographical footprint in existing and new territories. We enter the new financial year in a strong position, confirming our recently upgraded guidance, well placed to actively pursue both organic and non-organic growth."

On a sector-by-sector basis, the company said its Fresh Dairy division showed 9.2% growth, with its four main brands - Actimel, Activia, Danonino and Vitalinea - growing at more than 15%.

The dairy group's home market, France, grew in low single-digits, while the rest of Europe grew in high single-digits, driven by the sustained very strong performance in Russia, with all other countries growing healthily, the company said.

Latin America grew more than 20% with all geographies contributing evenly. North America grew above 10% supported by the launch of Activia and the continuous expansion of Stonyfield Farm in the organic segment.

Beverages had an "outstanding year" with 14.8% growth, "driven by the exceptional performance from new product innovation in Asia", Danone reported. However, in a difficult trading environment, France saw a slight decline but has succeeded in gaining value market share in the plain still water segment, as well as in the healthy beverage segment. Europe (excluding France) grew at double-digit supported by the strong performance in Spain, Germany and Poland, the company added.

Danone said its biscuits division had an "excellent" year, showing 3.1% growth. The performance in France was "positive", but Danone said Eastern Europe had still not returned to growth. Spain and Italy continued to show excellent results in biscuit sales, the company said.