The Switzerland-based food and drinks giant Nestle today posted consolidated sales of CHF66.2 billion during the first nine months of 2002, an increase of 6% over the corresponding period of the preceding year.

However, Nestle's closely-followed internal growth, which strips out currency movements, price changes and acquisitions, slipped to 3.4% in the nine months to September from 3.5% mid-year, which was below its long-term target of 4%. The company said the drop in growth was due to economic woes in Latin America and Japan as well sluggish demand for pet food in North America.

"That was clearly disappointing," Bank Sarasin's Patrick Hasenboehler said, referring to the downward trend in the real internal growth rate.

Nestlé Waters and Alcon showed strong internal growth, with 9.3% and 8.1% respectively. Europe grew at 1.3%, the Americas reached 2.4% and Asia, Oceania and Africa achieved growth of 3.7%.

"Emerging markets, both in Europe and in Asia, continued to grow strongly. Thus, in Eastern Europe, Nestlé was able to grow at 11.6% (with the Russian Federation achieving a RIG of 23.3%), mainland China showed 18.9%, the Philippines 6.8% and Southern Asia 11%, the company said.

Conversely, real internal growth in Latin America felt the full impact of the deteriorating economic situation in several countries and was flat.

Peter Brabeck, CEO of Nestlé said: "Nestlé succeeded in maintaining profitable growth despite a deteriorating economic climate. I remain confident that we will yet grow our RIG figure by the end of the year and that we will achieve sales and profits above those of 2001, while once again delivering further improvement in operational performance."