Swiss meat processor Bell Group said today (19 February) that its profits rose by over 8% during 2008 thanks to strong sales at home and contributions from new acquisitions.

The company booked an 8.2% increase in EBIT to CHF78.9m (US$67.2m) after seeing annual sales rise 18.5% to CHF1.94bn. Net profit reached CHF59.1m in 2008, up from CHF56.6m a year earlier.

Bell said rising domestic volumes led to sales growth of CHF130m, while acquisitions generated sales growth of CHF90m.

Nevertheless, raw material prices rose 10.3% in 2008, leading gross margins to dip from 32.3% in 2007 to 31.5%.

Looking at 2009, Bell said raw material costs are stabilising but expected "no significant relief" on energy or other costs.

Bell said consumer sentiment is Switzerland would be "restrained" and added that price competition would "intensify".