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ZURICH, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut AG said on Wednesday it expected to keep growing sales volumes by 4-6 percent in the new fiscal year after strong growth and low cocoa bean prices boosted profits in the 12 months to Aug. 31.
The company has been outgrowing a sluggish global chocolate market thanks to food companies like Nestle and Mondelez outsourcing their chocolate production and a thriving "gourmet" business with chefs and pastry makers.
"The continued execution of our 'smart growth' strategy, good visibility on volume growth and healthy global demand give us confidence that we are well on track to achieve our mid-term guidance," Chief Executive Antoine de Saint-Affrique said in a statement.
Net profit rose 31 percent in local currencies to 357.4 million Swiss francs ($357.22 million), helped by factors including lower net finance costs, while sales volumes increased by 6.3 percent to over 2 million tonnes.
Growth was good in the group's biggest region, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), due to robust business with food manufacturers and the gourmet unit.
Group profitability, measured in EBIT per tonne, rose 14 percent, also helped by a strong combined cocoa ratio, meaning low input and high output prices.
Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected net profit to rise to 358 million francs and sales volumes to increase by 5.9 percent.
The company proposed to pay out a dividend of 24 francs per share, more than the 23.1 franc forecast in the poll.
$1 = 1.0005 Swiss francs Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu