French food giant Danone has announced that its Q3 like-for-like sales were up 7.8%, leading to a 5.3% growth for the first nine months of 2002.

Year-to-date consolidated sales amounted to €10.467bn (US$10.183bn), compared to €11.012bn for the same period in 2001, decreasing by 4.9% on an historical basis. Changes in exchange rates had a negative impact of 5.2% while the scope of consolidation negatively impacted sales by 5%.

The board of directors at Danone approved the preliminary 2002 first-half results, published on 24 July: sales increased by 4.2% on a like-for-like basis, operating margin rose from 10.9% to 11.1%, growth in earnings per share was +11% (excluding exceptional one-time items).

The performance to date, in line with the internal objectives, has allowed the company to confirm its full year targets for 2002. Like-for-like sales growth is expected to be up by at least 5.2% and operating margin should increase by 40 to 50 basis points.

Growth in earnings per share (excluding exceptional one-time items) should be close to 10%.

Danone's exceptional net income should be significantly positive for the full year, taking into account in the second half the €1.5 bn net capital gain related to the final disposal of the European Beer activities to Scottish & Newcastle. At the end of September 2002, this disposal led to €2.3 bn cash proceeds, which contributed to reduce the group gearing ratio to around 35%.