Analysts expect Swiss food behemoth Nestlé to miss its targeted 4% increase in core sales growth for 2002.

Due to report next Thursday, Nestlé has been hit by soft markets in Latin America and stagnant sales of pet food, which became a flagship sales division with the 2001 acquisition of Ralston Purina.

Nestlé sets itself a rigorous target for real internal growth, which eliminates the effect of price shifts, acquisitions and currency fluctuation. While the group is not expected to make the wished for 4% growth, the company’s headline sales and profits will still outstrip those reported for 2001, thanks in part to the Purina acquisition and the sale of a minority holding in the Alcon optical care division, reported Reuters.

Nestlé reported 2001 sales of SFr84.7bn (US$62.37bn), net profits of SFr6.7bn and EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) worth SFr9.2bn. Analysts polled by Multex pitch 2002 sales at SFr89.8bn, net profits at SFr7.5bn and EBIT at slightly above SFr9.5bn.