Lindt looks to cash in on consolidation

Posted by Josette Dunn on 17th March 2010

Lindt & Sprungli would “fight like hell” to stay independent if a takeover bid came in for the Swiss chocolate maker, the company told just-food today (16 March).

chocolate swirl - Cadbury

The company, which suffered in 2009 as weak consumer demand, soaring cocoa prices and a series of restructuring measures hit profits, has been seen by industry watchers to be the next likely takeover target in the chocolate sector following Kraft Foods’ acquisition of Cadbury.

However, speaking to just-food in Zurich as Lindt published its 2009 results, Uwe Sommer, the company’s marketing director, said the Swiss firm would look to be an active player in any further consolidation of the category.

“Obviously, we would fight like hell to be independent. We have a good shareholder structure and, believe me, I don’t want to report to a European head of Nestle,” Sommer insisted.

“We are consistently reviewing all possible [acquisition] candidates. Some of them could make sense but, whenever we look at it closely, we see whether [a deal] should generate the same growth as Lindt over a five-year horizon, and the same level of profitability, and we step back and say we cannot do it.”

Lindt is targeting organic sales growth of 5-7% and EBIT of CHF300-340m (US$412-167m) in 2010 – against a 2.3% rise in turnover and EBIT of CHF265m in 2009.

The company has warned that continued pressure in cocoa prices will weigh on profits in 2010 but management believes the business can benefit from growth in markets including the UK, the US and Asia.

“We are very bullish about the UK. We will keep on increasing our marketing spend in the market and we are launching innovations under the Lindor brand,” Sommer said.

“The two guys who made it in the US were Lindt and Ghirardelli. What we want to do in Asia is seed the ground for further growth. We have to anchor our brands in a premium way. It will be very rewarding for the future.”

just-food is the world’s leading portal for the global pre-packaged food and retail industries. Its daily mix of breaking news, views, analysis and research serves over 100,000 food executives each month.