Nestlé has posted a healthy lift in profit for the first six months of this year.

The Swiss food and drink giant, which counts Perrier and Vittel among its drinks brands, said yesterday (15 August) that group net profit for the six-month period was up by 18.4% year-on-year, hitting CHF4.9bn (US$4.02bn). The increase came on the back of lifting sales, up 8.4% to CHF51.1bn.

"The group again achieved both strong growth and improved margins, the hallmark of the Nestlé model," said Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestlé's chairman and CEO. "These results are due to the strong performance of the Food and Beverages business and Nestlé's ongoing transformation into the world's leading nutrition, health and wellness company.

"In spite of increasing input cost pressures, I am confident of Nestlé achieving above-target organic growth for 2007, as well as a sustainable margin improvement."

The company's Nestlé Waters division saw sales in the first half rise in organic terms by 10.3% to CHF5.4bn. The company credited the rise to a strong performance in North America, where Nestlé Pure Life experienced over 40% organic growth. Europe achieved reasonable growth, while the smaller businesses in regions such as the Middle East and Latin America enjoyed what the company called "good performances".

Looking forward, the group warned that higher input costs will slow volume growth slightly in the second half of this year. "Nonetheless," the company said, "the strong start to the year allows Nestlé to expect above-target organic growth as well as a further sustainable improvement in margins for the full year."

Separately, Nestlé said yesterday that it has approved a share buyback programme. The company plans to buy CHF25bn worth of shares in the next three years.