Royal Numico, Europe’s largest manufacturer of infant milks, formulas and weaning foods, has seen a steady sales growth throughout fiscal 2005, with net sales reaching EUR1.988bn (US$2.368bn), an increase of 11.9% over 2004. Nutricia baby foods interests increased the net sales by 11.7%, while the Nutricia clinical division net sales increased by 12.3%. Combined EBITA growth was at 9.7%, in line with projections, reflecting the continued investments in marketing and innovation fuelling growth.

Fourth quarter results were largely in line with market expectations: Net profit for the quarter was EUR59m, up from EUR49m the year before. Sales were EUR539m, up from EUR455m in the fourth quarter of 2004.

“We have made major progress in 2005 in achieving our goal of becoming the high-growth, high-margin, specialised nutrition company.  We have increased focus by finalising our divestitures and completing the closure of eight European plants,” said Jan Bennink, Numico president and CEO.

The company said it has dubbed 2006 a ‘year of growth’ and is aiming to achieve double-digit sales growth. The integration of the recently acquired Dumex baby nutrition subsidiary is almost complete, the company said, adding that the integration of Mellin, an Italian baby food company, is ‘well underway’. A decision on the baby food unit’s Indian operations will be made in the first half of 2006, the company continued, saying that ‘all options are open’.

The company said it will pay shareholders 20% of its profits for the next five years, reversing a 2003 decision to suspend the payment of dividends following a poor financial performance in the US.