Barry Callebaut profit misses forecasts as costs bite

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss chocolate and cocoa product maker Barry Callebaut <BARN.S> said net profit fell a greater than expected 7.4 percent in the half-year to February due to bigger investment expenses and costs related to a recent acquisition.

Net profit fell to 116.4 million Swiss francs $124.7 million (81.4 million pounds), below a forecast of 129 million francs in a Reuters poll.

Chief Executive Juergen Steinemann said on Monday that results were hit by an unfavourable combined cocoa ratio, meaning prices for the group's cocoa ingredients like cocoa butter and powder fell more than cocoa bean prices.

Higher costs for marketing, factories and the supply chain as well as initial expenses related to the acquisition of Petra Foods' <PEFO.SI> cocoa ingredients division, also weighed on profits, he said in a statement.

Barry Callebaut, already the world's top maker of finished chocolate products, announced in December it was buying the Petra Foods business for $950 million, making it the number-one in cocoa processing and increasing its footprint in Asia.

Steinemann said the closing of the deal and integration of the business were well on track.

Barry Callebaut confirmed its mid-term financial targets of 6-8 percent growth in sales volumes per year through 2014/15.

A trend towards outsourcing chocolate production helped the maker of chocolate for big groups such as Nestle <NESN.VX> to outgrow the market in its first half, with sales volumes rising 7.8 percent in a chocolate market that grew only 1.5 percent.

Chocolate maker Hershey <HSY.N>, also one of Barry Callebaut's customers, last month confirmed it expects sales to grow 5-7 percent this year, while Swiss peer Lindt <LISP.S> aims to increase underlying sales by 6-8 percent.

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)