Cloetta CEO Bengt Baron today (14 February) praised the confectionery group’s fourth-quarter results as the company beds down after the 2012 merger with Leaf and restructuring at the enlarged business.

Baron, who moved from Leaf to head the new Cloetta after the deal two years ago, reflecting on the group’s fourth-quarter results, pointed to a second successive quarter of sales growth and improved profitability.

“It is satisfying that during the quarter the company increased both sales and operating profit. Profit before and after tax and earnings per share also rose while the net debt/underlying EBITDA ratio decreased. This demonstrates that Cloetta is on the right track,” Baron said.

For the fourth quarter of 2013, profit after tax rose to SEK186m (US$28.8m), from SEK155m a year earlier. Operating profit almost doubled from SEK82m in the last three months of 2012 to SEK175m.

Baron said Cloetta’s underlying EBIT rose 16.5% to SEK231m. He pointed to the restructuring of the company’s production network and savings from the merger but also said higher sales had a “positive impact”.

Net sales were up 2.6% at SEK1.44bn. On an organic basis, which strips out foreign exchange and measures revenue from “comparable units”, net sales rose 1.6%.

“It is encouraging that Cloetta generated sales growth for the second consecutive quarter,” Baron said.

However, sales were flat in the Netherlands and fell in Norway, the latter hit by a the end of a contract to distribute an unnamed brand owned by another company.

Baron added: “When I summarise the year 2013, I am proud to say that we have executed according to plan.”

For 2013 as a whole, net sales inched up 0.7% to SEK4.89bn. Underlying EBIT jumped 39.7% to SEK591m. Cloetta reported a profit of SEK264m, compared to a loss of SEK73m in 2012, as a result of costs linked to the merge with Leaf.