Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli has reported a 7.1% rise in 2003 group sales.

The company said group sales in Swiss francs were CHF1.80bn (US$1.43bn) in 2003, compared to CHF1.68bn in the previous year. Sales rose 7.8% in local currencies, beating the company's own growth target of 5-7%.
 
Lindt & Spruengli said the growth had been achieved despite weak consumer spending due to factors such as tension in the Middle East, lower tourism due to SARS, and the European heat wave.

The company said all of its businesses had contributed toward the sales growth, with some even achieving double-digit rates, with the exception of Lindt & Spruengli in Switzerland, where the domestic market was particularly affected by the extremely hot summer and the drop in tourism.
 
Lindt & Spruengli said it expects to report an increase in 2003 operating profit (EBIT) and net income in excess of the increase in sales. Full-year results are due to be published on 6 April.