* Like-for-like sales rise 4.0% in 2020
* Q4 sales up 4.8% as fragrances rise 8.1%
* Shares down 1.9%
* Low visibility for 2021 (Adds CFO quotes, shares)
ZURICH, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Givaudan on Friday reported a rise in profits last year as strong demand for snacks, soap and shampoo in the Americas helped the world’s biggest fragrance and flavour maker grow sales and earnings amid the pandemic.
Consumers kept buying packaged foods and items for cleaning and personal hygiene during the COVID-19 crisis, supporting Givaudan, which makes flavours and fragrances for everything from plant-based burgers to toothpaste.
Net profit rose 5.8% to 743 million Swiss francs ($835.58 million) in the full year, the company said.
It confirmed its mid-term target of 4-5% sales growth on average per year, but said it could not give an outlook for this year.
“Look what it’s like in Europe with countries in lockdown or semi-lockdown, it’s really very difficult to predict,” Chief Financial Officer Tom Hallam told Reuters in an interview.
Around 85% of the group’s business proved resilient, boosting like-for-like sales 4.0% in 2020. The Americas and fragrance sales were the main driver, Givaudan said.
“We’ve done better than our main competitors in 2020, but overall we don’t see distressed businesses in this industry,” Hallam said, adding the company had a good pipeline of bolt-on acquisitions.
Peers IFF and Symrise post results on Feb. 11 and March 9 respectively.
Givaudan’s fine fragrance unit returned to 4.2% sales growth in the second half, benefiting from pent-up demand, Hallam said.
Its foodservice business linked to out-of-home consumption remained under pressure throughout 2020. “It’s not just the restaurants, it’s the hotels, the catering events,” he said.
“That gives you a good indication for 2021. When people are at home, it’s good for our home categories and when people go out, we see the rebound on the food and beverage side,” Hallam said.
Givaudan also proposed raising its dividend 3.2% to 64 francs per share. “We have a very strong practice of increasing our dividend year on year,” Hallam said.
Shares in the group - flat so far this year, but up 23% last year - were 1.9% lower at 0719 GMT in line with the broader market.
$1 = 0.8892 Swiss francs Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Riham Alkousaa, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Jan Harvey