Lindt Aims to Dethrone Godiva in High-End Chocolate Market

  • Swiss chocolate company's full-year earnings rise 9.4%
  • Lindor ball maker's dividend increase beats Bloomberg forecast

Lindt & Spruengli AG wants to overtake Godiva and become the world’s largest premium chocolate retailer by 2020.

In pursuit of the goal, Lindt plans to open 20 to 30 shops each year, the Kilchberg, Switzerland-based maker of Lindor balls said in a statement Tuesday as it reported full-year profit growth in line with analysts’ estimates and raised its dividend 10 percent.

Lindt, which has more than 300 shops, will need to accelerate its expansion plan to beat its larger rival, which runs more than 450 boutiques. The candy maker said it will use its store network to communicate with consumers, seeking prime locations and offering some products they can’t find elsewhere. Lindt added 50 stores last year, including 16 in Brazil, and retail sales rose more than 20 percent, faster than the company’s total sales growth.

“If we continue with this pace, we’ll get there,” Chief Executive Officer Ernst Tanner said in an interview, adding that Lindt wants a “worldwide presence” while Godiva is “very strong” in certain markets such as North America and Japan.

First-half organic sales growth will be slightly below the long-term target of 6 percent to 8 percent because of tougher comparisons to the previous year’s first half, Tanner said. Growth will be stronger in the second part of the year, he added. Lindt is not planning big price increases this year, and growth will be driven more by volume, he said.

The stock fell 1.2 percent to 68,600 francs as of 12:46 p.m. in Zurich.

Lindt will open its first shop in Moscow this year and add more stores in Brazil, France and the U.K., he also said.

Earnings before interest and tax rose 9.4 percent to 518.8 million francs ($522 million). Analysts expected 519.6 million francs, according to the average estimate. Sales rose 7.1 percent on an organic basis.

Lindt became the third-largest chocolate maker in the U.S. when it bought Russell Stover for 1.5 billion francs in 2014. North American sales rose 7.9 percent last year, slowing from 14 percent growth in 2014 as Russell Stover eliminated unprofitable products.

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