French food giant Danone has reported a 1.18% decline in 2002 operating profit to €1.59bn (US$1.72bn) on sales down 6.3% to €13.56bn.

Danone also said, however, that like-for-like sales growth was 6% in 2002 and that it had reduced its net debt to €2.27bn from €4.83bn in 2001. Net profit increased to €1.28bn, after one-off charges had driven it down to €132m in 2001.

The company gave an upbeat full-year forecast: “We confirm our targets for 2003 starting from the principle that even if the context is difficult, we will achieve 5-7% turnover growth and improve our margins by 20-40 basis points,” Chairman Franck Riboud was quoted by Reuters as saying.