A poor start to the year in France is expected to hit Groupe Danone through to the middle of 2005. The company issued the warning today (14 April) as it released its first quarter figures.

"There should be a slight imbalance in first-half and second-half sales growth within the overall 5% to 7% range, Danone's CFO Emmanuel Faber said. "France will further impact the balance in first-half and second-half margin expansion," she added.

Revenue in France fell by 7% in the first quarter. Danone does not expect the situation to recover this year.

While the group confirmed its targets earlier today, Faber said that earnings per share growth in the first half would be in the "low single digits", partly because of France, and higher raw materials costs.

"I am confident we can deliver high-teens growth in the second half of the year," Faber said, leading the group to maintain the full-year target of 10% earnings per share growth.