French food maker Bongrain has posted a 6.2% rise in net earnings to €65.2m (US$80.1m) in 2003, helped by a strong performance by its cheese division.

Net sales rose 1.5% to €4.00bn from €3.94bn in the previous year. Operating income slid 2.4% to €137.2m from €140.6m

The company said cheese products accounted for 60% of total net sales for the year, boosted by several acquisitions, including the purchase of Unilever’s cheese product operations (the Bresso and Milkana trademarks) in Germany. Bongrain said the strong performance of cheese products in several international markets was able to compensate a lesser operating performance in France.

Bongrain said 2004 will be impacted by changes in the dairy sector, in France and more generally in Europe, and by the accession of ten new member states to the European Union.

“Assuming a satisfactory evolution in the global geopolitical situation, Bongrain remains well placed to pursue its development within this new market environment,” the company said.