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Wessanen to report lift in profit


Dutch food group Wessanen NV is expected to report a 3.3 per cent increase in first-half net profit from ordinary operations on Wednesday, in line with a profit warning issued two months ago, Reuters reports. The firm, in the midst of a shake-up to focus more on health foods, warned in June that its European dairy operations were suffering from higher raw materials prices. It also cautioned that first-half sales at its U.S. natural food unit Tree of Life were expected to fall five per cent and net profit for the same period would grow three to five per cent. Analysts polled by Reuters were cautious, pegging their forecasts at the bottom end of that range, saying net profit from ordinary operations for the first six months would come in at 41 million euros, up from 39.7 million in 2000. Turnover is seen rising 10.3 per cent to 2.06 billion euros, the analysts said in the poll. The figures are due to be released on Wednesday at 1100 GMT, followed by a news conference at 1200 GMT and an analysts' conference at 1400 GMT. Wessanen said in June that it saw full year net profit before goodwill falling to 75-80 million euros from 98.4 million last year. Wessanen had planned to sell its European and U.S. dairy units and use the proceeds to acquire more natural food companies and buy back shares. The company agreed earlier this year on a sale of the U.S. dairy operations for $400 million, but U.S. antitrust authorities have requested more information, delaying completion of the deal. "Wessanen expects to close the sale in the third quarter. This might be too optimistic," said analyst Ton van Ooijen of SNS Securities. Analysts were also hoping for word on when the European dairy unit could be sold, which was delayed when the foot-and-mouth disease crisis created an unfavourable sales climate. In July, the company sold nearly its entire share in Italian drinks firm Campari for 300 million euros, yielding a capital gain of more than 100 million euros. Wessanen changed its name from BolsWessanen after the sale of its Bols Royal Distilleries activities in 1998.

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