Norwegian food group Rieber & Søn posted an increase in profit for the first nine months of the year today (29 October) but said it would like to see "stronger" sales growth.

Profit after tax increased to NOK139m (US$24.4m) from NOK125m in the previous year. Rieber & Søn posted an 8.1% rise in EBITDA to NOK425m.

Sales, meanwhile, only edged up to NOK3.71bn compared to NOK3.62bn in the same period of 2008.

For the third quarter of 2009, however, operating profit dropped by 10.2% to NOK88m. One-off items related to job cuts generated charges of NOK29m, compared with an income of NOK4m in the prior year.

Net sales for the quarter edged up 0.6% to reach NOK1.22bn, while profit after tax inched up to NOK53m from NOK52m a year ago.

Third-quarter EBITDA, however, jumped by 17% to NOK179m.

Rieber & Søn also said it was negatively affected by foreign currency developments, mainly in Norway and Poland where local currencies weakened against the Euro and US dollar.

"We would like to see stronger sales growth," said CEO Patrik Andersson. "The decrease in the world economy has varying impact on the group's business units. We will therefore in the fourth quarter focus on how we can maintain or improve the top line in our different markets."

In the third quarter, Rieber & Søn sold Rieber Kruiningen and signed an agreement to sell its Sopps brand.

Its King Oscar business was hived off as a separate subsidiary effective from 1 October. The company also cancelled its agreement to acquire the Gellwe brand after the Polish competition authorities refused to accept the acquisition.