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Nestlé's Ability To Hike Prices In Focus For Full-Year Results

Food group Nestlé is expected to post organic sales growth of 7.1% for 2021 on Thursday, almost twice as high as the year before thanks to strong demand for coffee and pet food, but high input costs will start taking a toll on profitability.

Markets will focus on the guidance for this year, especially on the KitKat and Nescafé maker's ability to raise prices without endangering volume growth and market shares.

The outlook for coffee, the petcare business and plant-based food that benefited during the pandemic will be scrutinised.

L'Oreal Stake 

Any indication the company could further reduce its stake in cosmetics group L'Oreal, maybe to finance a large acquisition, would also make headlines.

Organic sales, which strip out currency swings and acquisitions, are expected to rise by 7.1% in the full year, including a 5.2% rise in volumes and a 1.8% increase in prices, according to a company-compiled consensus.

The forecast implies a slowdown in the final quarter from the 7.6% growth rate seen in the first nine months.

Under pressure from soaring costs for commodities, energy, transport and labour, Nestlé's trading operating profit margin is expected to decline slightly to 16.7%, from 16.9% in 2020.

'Hit To Profitability'

Peer Unilever last week warned of a hit to profitability as it struggles to lift prices enough to offset higher costs.

"Unilever's warning on its margin clearly rattled the market," Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said.

"However, I tend to think Nestle is in more premium categories and it should be able to more or less offset inflationary pressures through pricing in 2022."

Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo downgraded Nestle to "underperform" last month, pointing to tough comparables in coffee and petcare and margin headwinds this year.

Shares Decline 

Nestlé's shares, down 8% so far this year, are trading at over 24 times forward earnings, according to Refinitiv data, at a significant premium to Danone and Unilever.

In December, Nestlé cut its stake in L'Oreal to 20.1% and announced a new 20 billion Swiss franc ($21.65 billion) share buyback programme.

It also recently acquired a majority stake in protein powder maker Orgain.

News by Reuters, edited by Donna Ahern, Checkout. For more A-brand stories, click here. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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