March 3, 2020 / 6:33 AM / a month ago

Lindt promises sweet dividend and further growth

Lindor chocolate eggs of Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli are displayed during the annual news conference in Kilchberg, Switzerland March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli (LISN.S) (LISP.S) on Tuesday proposed a sweeter payout to shareholders, increasing its dividend by 75% to mark its 175th anniversary.

Chocolate makers are facing sluggish growth, particularly in saturated U.S. and European markets, as consumers often opt for healthier snacks these days, but Lindt has fared better than peers thanks to its upmarket positioning.

“For the coming years, Lindt & Spruengli confirms its existing mid- to long-term organic sales growth target of 5-7% per year,” the maker of Lindor chocolate balls and gold foil-wrapped Easter bunnies said in a statement on Tuesday.

It added that it would also steadily improve its operating margin.

Net profit increased by 5.1% to 511.9 million Swiss francs ($534.57 million) last year and profitability also improved, the company said, proposing to pay out a dividend of 1,750 francs per registered share for 2019.

The net profit was just below a 518.1 million franc estimate in a Refinitiv poll, but the dividend was well above the 1,080 franc estimate.

In January Lindt posted a 6.1% increase in full-year organic sales growth.

Lindt is also relying on the expansion of its retail network of Lindt-branded stores to drive growth. It now has around 500 shops and cafes worldwide and said it wanted to pursue its global expansion this year.

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz, editing by John Revill and Michelle Martin

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