Nestle Waters said its sales were largely stable in 2004 with a decline in Europe counterbalanced by strong growth in North America.

In a statement, the Swiss giant said on a like-for-like basis with a constant exchange rate, sales rose by 0.6%.

"These results are due to extremely contrasting performances in the two regions of the world that account for over 90% of Nestlé Waters' sales - North America and Europe."

In North America, performances were "exceptional" despite unfavourable factors such as heightened competition with the soft drinks giants, a general reduction in prices and sluggish growth in HOD activity. In 2004, Nestlé Waters posted a growth rate of 9.7%, well above market growth estimated at 7.5%.

As for Europe, Nestle Waters said unfavourable weather conditions following the heatwave in 2003 were amplified by profound changes in the consumption habits of households. In this region the price factor has emerged as one of the prime consumer purchase motivations. These factors contributed to a sales decrease of 8.4%.