Nestle, the world's biggest food group, saw consolidated sales of CHF87,979m (US$69,118m) in 2003, leading to EBITA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes and Amortization of goodwill) of CHF11, 006m.

Net profit amounted to CHF6,213m, whilst earnings per share were CHF16.05.
At constant currencies, group sales grew 6.3%, while Nestle achieved an organic growth of 5.1%, within the group's own target range. However, organic sales growth was below some investors' expectations, with a Reuter's poll averaging 5.3%.

Peter Brabeck, CEO of Nestlé, said: "Nestlé has delivered both a good, sustainable improvement in performance and an organic growth within our target range. This is a strong performance in an adverse economic and political environment, with powerful currency headwinds for the third successive year. I am satisfied that the Group is capable of continuing to deliver margin improvement, supported by our efficiency programs and continued strong organic growth. Our leading market positions and global reach put us in an excellent position for the somewhat more positive external environment of 2004."

The company said all zones saw positive organic growth rates. Eastern Europe, Latin America, the emerging markets of Asia as well as Africa and the Middle East clearly outpaced the group average, as did Nestlé Waters, the joint ventures and the pharmaceutical sector.

"The USA and Canada look back on a very successful year and China, India and Indochina also performed well," the company said.

Looking forward Nestle said: "After successfully coming through a challenging year, the group looks forward to 2004 with cautious optimism. It will pursue its policy of bringing continuous, sustainable improvement to its margins and it maintains its objective of achieving between 5 and 6% organic sales growth. As a result of the growing contribution of the efficiency programs and on the strength of its popular brands and broad presence, Nestlé is confident on being able to deliver on both fronts."