Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli has reported better-then-expected 2002 sales growth as it increased its world chocolate market share.

The company said its sales increased to CHF1.68bn (US$1.23) in 2002 from CHF1.59bn in the previous year, beating analysts’ estimates of around CHF1.63bn.

Lindt also said that the expected percentage rise in 2002 earnings before interest and tax would exceed sales growth.

All the company’s divisions reported an increase in sales, with subsidiaries in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US all reporting double-digit growth.

“It has to be emphasised that these impressive results have been achieved in stagnating and sometimes even decreasing chocolate markets. This in turn led to improved market shares,” Lindt was quoted as saying by Reuters.