Chocolate maker Hershey will reaffirm its expectations for the 2005 full year, in a series of presentations to be given to investment analysts today (13 December).

That means that net sales will increase at a rate above the long-term goal of 3-4%, and diluted earnings per share from operations should increase at a rate greater than the long-term range of 9-11%.

In addition, the company will highlight major growth initiatives including benefit-driven innovation, continued expansion within the US snack market and a disciplined approach to achieving profitable growth in key global markets. To support these growth initiatives, Hershey will provide a comprehensive review of productivity and cost savings efforts which will be implemented in 2006 and beyond. In this context the company will reaffirm its expectations for 2006, calling for sales growth somewhat above its 3-4% long-term goal, with increased diluted earnings per share slightly above 9-11%, excluding the previously announced business realignment charges.

The company also announced today that its board of directors has approved an additional US$500m stock repurchase authorisation. The company continues to execute the $250m buyback authorised in April 2005 and expects to complete both authorisations by the end of 2006.

“We’re very pleased with the continued momentum across our business,” said Richard H. Lenny, chairman, president, and chief executive officer. “We remain on track for another record year in 2005 in terms of sales growth, market share gains, and earnings from operations. Equally as important, our plans for 2006 have been finalised and will enable Hershey to continue to deliver top-tier performance. Regarding the stock repurchase authorisation, The Hershey board of directors is confident in the future growth prospects of the company. This authorisation underscores our commitment to rewarding shareholders over the long term.”