UK confectionery and soft drinks giant Cadbury Schweppes has said its performance improved towards the end of 2003, and that it had had a good start to 2004.

The company reported profit before tax of £564m (US$1.08bn) in the year to 28 December 2003, compared to £830m in the previous year. Underlying profit before tax, excluding goodwill amortisation and exceptional items was £922m, down 1% from £935m in the previous year.

Turnover rose 22% to £6.44bn from £5.30bn in the previous year.

“Our performance was resilient in a transitional year. Underlying earnings per share increased 2% in constant currency against the background of a major reorganisation, the integration of Adams and difficult trading conditions in many of our key markets,” said CEO Todd Stitzer.

“The final quarter of 2003 saw a broad based improvement in performance and we have seen an encouraging start to 2004. The Adams’ integration and Fuel for Growth cost reduction initiatives are being executed to plan and are expected to deliver significant benefits in 2004 and beyond.

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“We expect to deliver 2004 financial performance within our goal ranges of 3% – 5% net base sales value growth and 50 – 75 basis points of operating margin increase annually,” Stitzer said.

Cadbury said that despite the hot summer, its Cadbury Trebor Bassett unit had delivered record sales, profit and market share following a good Christmas, and the company’s confectionery and beverage operations in Australia had recovered strongly in the second half.