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March 27, 2015

Bel profits fall in 2014

France-based cheese supplier Groupe Bel saw profits fall in 2014, in part soured by raw material costs in the early part of the year.

By Dean Best

France-based cheese supplier Groupe Bel saw profits fall in 2014, in part soured by raw material costs in the early part of the year.

The Leerdammer and Boursin owner booked net profit of EUR123m (US$133.6m), down 2.3% on 2013. As the company warned earlier this month, its operating income fell in 2014, sliding 15% to EUR199m.

Bel pointed to rising raw material prices in 2014, which it said had "penalised" the business despite an "easing" of prices in the last four months of the year.

It also cited "highly volatile" foreign exchange fluctuations and a one-off charge of EUR15.3m linked to the move of its head office this year.

Bel said it had worked to "adjust" its retail prices and improve efficiency but neither was enough to fully overcome the impact of those factors on earnings.

Sales increased 2.3% in 2014 to EUR2.78bn. On an organic basis, sales grew 3.3%.

Four of the company's five geographic divisions – western Europe, a joint Americas and Asia Pacific unit, Greater Africa and a combined Near and Middle East arm – all saw sales rise.

However, sales in Bel's north-East Europe division – its second-largest by revenue, behind western Europe – fell 4.5%. The group pointed to "the operating difficulties encountered in Ukraine and the tough business environment prevailing in some of the region's markets, notably Germany".

On the outlook for the rest of 2015, Bel said: "The economic and geopolitical uncertainty ushering in the 2015 financial year does not augur well for consumer spending. The monetary environment and raw material supplies are on a more favorable trend but nevertheless remain highly volatile."

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