France's Groupe Danone today (2 August) reported its "best ever" half in terms of sales growth, prompting the company to raise its predicted full year sales growth from 5%-7% to 7%-8%. Danone also predicted a rise of 20-40 basis points in its full year operating margin on a like-for-like basis and a 15% growth in underlying EPS.

Consolidated net sales totalled EUR7,217m (US$9,234.13m) compared to EUR6,437m in the first half of 2005, an increase of 12.1%.

French food group said that its first-half underlying net income from continuing operations grew 22.3% to EUR614m.

The company's trading operating margin rose to 13.46%, from 13.31%, or by more than 30 basis points on an underlying basis, driven by fresh dairy products and biscuits operations. First-half operating profit was EUR972m, up from EUR857m.

Franck Riboud, chairman and CEO, said: "First half 2006 performance is the strongest ever in the group's history in terms of like-for-like growth. Key to this success has been our geographic expansion and new frontiers approach, the fast roll out of our brands delivering health benefits and our constant commitment to innovate.

"After several years of strong growth, we are confident in the group's ability to continue to grow at a similar rate in 2006. The group is in good shape to make further progress with clearly defined strategic and operational priorities supported by the energy and commitment of our staff worldwide."

Shares in Danone have increased by 3.77% in morning trade to EUR104.50.