Lindt & Spruengli proposes dividend hike as 2022 profit climb

ZURICH (Reuters) -Lindt & Spruengli said its 2022 profit rose and the Swiss chocolate maker also proposed a higher dividend payout on Tuesday, despite a challenging year that saw inflationary price hikes dampen consumer sentiment in key markets.

Net income rose to 569.7 million Swiss francs ($612.78 million), beating the 566 million francs forecast by analysts at Zuercher Kantonalbank.

The manufacturer of Lindor balls and gold foil-wrapped Easter bunnies said it achieved an operating margin of 15% last year, in line with its forecast.

It proposed a dividend of 1,300 francs per registered share, up from the 1,200 francs last year.

Lindt already released 2022 organic sales growth of 8.4% in January and maintained its sales growth target of 6-8% despite saying it expects a challenging 2023 due to the inflationary environment.

Last year Lindt upped its prices by around 4% because of the rising cost of packaging and the raw materials, such as milk and sugar, needed to make chocolate.

With cost pressures continuing to pose a challenge, Lindt said it is likely to do the same this year.

“I would expect the price increases to be in the same area as they were last year” said Adalbert Lechner, who took over as Chief Executive from Dieter Weisskopf in October.

Monique Bourquin has been nominated for the board of directors, the chocolate manufacturer said, adding that Antonio Bulgheroni has taken the decision to no longer stand as a candidate at the upcoming annual general meeting.

($1 = 0.9297 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Noele Illien; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Louise Heavens)