Food and drink conglomerate, Nestle SA, has reported a 10% rise in turnover in the first quarter and said it expects record sales and profitability this year.

First quarter sales rose to SF21.31 billion (US$12.78 billion) from SF19.35 billion in the corresponding period last year. The growth exceeded analysts' predictions which were in the region of 9.3%.

The group attributed the growth principally to its $10 billion takeover of US pet-care company Ralston Purina last year.

Overall sales were above forecast, but like-for-like growth - stripping out the impact of currency changes, price changes, acquisitions and divestitures - were below analysts' expectations at 3.3%.

Analysts had predicted 3.8% while Nestle's own target at one stage was for 4%. "We are confident that we will again reach our real internal growth target of 4% and that Nestle will once more improve sales and profits for 2002," said CEO Peter Brabeck.

Stronger than average growth was achieved, however, by the company's beverage business, which saw a 4.7% improvement. The company is the biggest mineral water producer in the world with brands such as Poland Spring, San Pelegrino, Vittel and Perrier.