PRELIMINARY 2000 FINANCIAL RESULTS: IMPROVEMENT CONFIRMED


Paris, February 6, 2001 – The Board of Directors of Eridania Béghin-Say met on February 6, 2001 under the chairmanship of Stefano Meloni to review the initial figures of the unaudited consolidated accounts for 2000. The Board will meet again on March 13, 2001 to close the accounts for the year.



















Key figures (in EUR millions)
1999

2000
preliminary

% change
Sales
9,010.2

9,790

+ 8.7%
Operating income
376.5

388

+ 3.1%


The signs of recovery and improvement in the Group’s businesses described in the presentation of the nine-months results were confirmed in the final quarter. These include a rise in sugar prices, a recovery in sales of starchy products in Europe, an increase in oilseed crushing margins following that in soya crushing margins, strong seed oil sales in certain countries and an upturn in demand in most of the Group’s markets.


Sales rose 7.9% in the first half and 9.3% in the second half, making for a full-year gain of 8.7%. Stronger growth in the second six months confirmed the general increase in sales volumes and the Group’s ability to serve the firm demand generated by a more favourable economic environment. Organic growth amounted to 2.8% for the year, with changes in scope of consolidation adding 2.1% and a positive currency effect stemming from the dollar’s appreciation against the euro contributing around 3.6%.


Operating income increased by 3.1% from the year before, with organic growth of 5.5% offsetting a 2.1% reduction due to changes in the scope of consolidation. The improvement was attributable, in varying degrees, to the strong rebound in virtually all of the Group’s businesses, despite the late recovery in certain markets and the added costs generated by sharply higher oil prices. Only the Starch and Derivatives business in the US suffered from the still very unfavourable conditions in the American market, where the first signs of improvement did not appear until the beginning of 2001.


The final income statement and balance sheet for 2000 will be reviewed and approved at the Board Meeting of March 13, 2001.


OUTLOOK FOR 2001 AND DIVIDEND
In France and Italy, the 2000/2001 sugar campaign was satisfactory, as were most of the other harvests of interest to Eridania Béghin-Say. The upturn in global demand for Group products, which was only just emerging in 2000, will be the key growth factor for the Group’s businesses in 2001. Margins will continue to be affected by higher oil prices, but the impact will be more than offset by price increases and by the cost reduction and production efficiency improvement programs underway in each division. The Group’s ongoing commitment to increasing product value-added, combined with investment programs and targeted acquisitions, will provide the businesses with the resources they need to significantly improve their financial results in 2001.


At its March 13 meeting, the Board of Directors will set the amount of the dividend for 2000 to be recommended for approval at the Annual General Meeting. The decision will be based on both the final financial results for 2000 and the outlook for 2001.


DEMERGER PLAN
As announced in the press release of November 29, 2000, Eridania Béghin-Say has begun to study a project to split the Group into four independent companies. The Board of Directors has been informed of the progress made on the study so far. The initial information confirms the project’s interest and anticipated advantages, even though it remains necessary to ensure that certain aspects of the project have been optimised. As announced, the Board should be in a position to make a final decision at its March 13, 2001 meeting.