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Nestle: 9-month sales fall 2.2 percent

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Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food and drink company, said Thursday that sales for the first nine months fell 2.2 percent as the strong Swiss franc and weakened demand hurt overall performance.

Nestle, which reports only full-year and half-year profits, said sales through September slipped to 79.5 billion francs ($78.7 billion), from 81.4 billion francs a year ago.

The franc’s strength compared to other currencies pushed sales down 5.2 percent from what they otherwise would have tallied. Sales in the Americas, Nestle’s biggest region, slipped 1.7 percent to 23.4 billion francs, while in Europe they plummeted 21.3 percent to 16.5 billion francs.

In Asia and Africa, sales fell 7.9 percent to 11.7 billion francs.

Still, Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke said the figures showed “the increased momentum of real internal growth.”

The owner of such popular brands as Nescafe, Perrier, Jenny Craig and Haagen Dazs offered no change in its full-year outlook, which it lowered three months ago after a set of results hampered by weaker consumer demand and divestitures.

Nestle reported organic growth of 3.6 percent. The figure is an industry yardstick comprising volume growth and price increases.

Total food and beverage sales fell 2.7 percent to 73.7 billion francs. Sales for the pharmaceutical division added 5.84 billion francs, up over 4 percent from last year.

Nestle’s long-term health is naturally tied to global economic recovery. A longer period of recession will lead customers to move away from its luxury brands, and analysts question the company’s ability to find new growth through restructuring or shifting focus.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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