Spanish food group Ebro Foods today (27 October) reported double-digit growth in operating profit for the first nine months of the year despite its sales falling faster during the third quarter.

Ebro booked EBIT of EUR157.5m (US$217.2m) – a rise of 19.6% on the year – for the nine months to the end of September. EBITDA was up 15% at EUR197.5m. The company’s net profit more than doubled to EUR346m, boosted by the sale of its dairy business to Lactalis earlier this year.

However, Ebro’s sales were down 6.6% during the first nine months of 2010. Ebro blamed lower raw-material prices, which the company passed on in the form of lower selling prices. After the first half of the year, sales were down 6%.

Nontheless, Ebro said the nine-month results “confirmed the success of the company’s strategy”.

The company said net profit for 2010 would be up 120% at EUR387m, while EBITDA would rise 11% to EUR271m. Ebro forecast annual sales of EUR1.69bn, down 23% on 2009.