PARIS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Food group Danone said on Friday it would focus on accelerating sales growth this year and deliver a further rise in profits, thanks to cost cuts and the benefits from its acquisition of U.S. organic food group WhiteWave.
Danone, the world's largest yoghurt maker, said it was targeting a double-digit rise in 2018 recurring earnings per share (EPS) at constant exchange rates, excluding the impact of the sale of a stake in Japan's Yakult announced this week.
Danone achieved 14.2 percent EPS growth in 2017, in line with its guidance.
"In 2018, the company will progress toward its 2020 ambition through further sales growth and an improved recurring operating margin," it said in a statement.
The company, alongside consumer goods peers such as Nestle and Unilever, is under investor pressure to improve results and it needs to deliver on 2020 profit margin and sales growth targets it set last year.
Like-for-like sales in 2017 rose 2.5 percent to 24.677 billion euros ($30.95 billion), slightly above analysts' expectations of 2.4 percent growth.
The 2017 operating margin rose by 70 basis points to 14.36 percent of sales, slightly above analysts' expectations of 14.26 percent of sales.
$1 = 0.7973 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta