Bongrain improves despite exchange rate concerns

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Bongrain, the
French cheese maker best known for brands such as Coeur de Lion and
Tartare, ended 2003 with a slight increase in sales compared to the
previous year, but continued to suffer at the hands of negative
exchange rates.

Turnover for the year to 31 December 2003 reached €4 billion, up 1.5 per cent compared to 2002, but would have been 3.4 per cent higher if not the adverse impact of exchange rates.

The euro strengthened against the currency of almost every other country where Bongrain operates, the company said. Bongrain has operations in around 25 countries other than France, of which 19 are outside the euro zone.

Bongrain's cheese business accounts for around 58.9 per cent of its turnover, while other retail dairy products account for 16.4 per cent, bulk dairy products take 22.5 per cent and upmarket 'gastronomy' products the remaining 2.2 per cent.

Cheese sales were up 7 per cent for the year, before the negative impact of exchange rates. The increase was due primarily to the significant expansion of Bongrain's business in 2003, which included the opening of new cheese production operations in Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia and the acquisition of Angulo in Spain, Cognati in the US and Edelweiss in Germany.

The company said it was pleased with its international growth rates, which were boosted by ongoing efforts to improve product quality and increased support for brands, but said that its bulk and gastronomy operations had found it harder to cope with the economic difficulties faced in some markets.

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