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Groupe SEB Has a Better First Quarter
Apr 12, 2006
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Groupe SEB today said consolidated sales for the 3 months ended March 31, 2006 showed generally solid gains. The France-based maker of cookware and small appliances said the results reflect both poor prior-year comparatives and stronger overall demand, continuing the trend seen in late 2005. SEB's first-quarter 2006 revenue also benefited from a 26 million euro (approx. U.S. $31.5 million) contribution from recently acquired Lagostina and Panex, which were not consolidated in first-quarter 2005, as well as a 24 million euro (approx. U.S. $29 million) positive currency effect. SEB said that at a constant scope of consolidation and exchange rates, revenue was up an organic 6.6 percent.

The beginning of the year saw flat revenue at constant scope of consolidation in Europe, where the price environment remained deflationary, as well as slower growth in North America and robust sales in South America and the rest of the world. March sales were probably lifted as certain retailers increased inventories ahead of the announced April increase in cookware prices.

Europe Results
In France, where the market is beginning to show some signs of a recovery, Groupe SEB improved its performance over a sluggish first-quarter 2005. Sales varied by products and continued to be impacted by downward price pressure. Demand was strong for cookware, irons and hair dryers, but pressure cookers, ovens, kettles and filter coffeemakers showed slower sales.

In other European Union countries sales growth was supported by Lagostina's contribution and revenue rose by 1.2 percent at comparable scope of consolidation and exchange rates. The first-quarter saw a significant decline in Germany after several 2005 promotional campaigns ended. SEB's markets stabilized in Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal and sales increased in Greece, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, and Austria, where the Beertender draught beer system continued driving growth.

Sales slowed, as expected in Central Europe, where the Group holds substantial market share.

North America
In North America, sales were stable. In the U.S., the All-Clad cookware brand made further gains, Rowenta brand showed resilience in high-end irons, the T-Fal brand showed less momentum due to slower sales of its electrical appliances, and Krups coffeemaker sales declined due mostly to retailer inventory draw-downs and an unfavorable comparison with a strong first-quarter 2005. Sales in Canada and Mexico were very satisfactory, SEB said.

South America
South American markets remained strong, enabling SEB to further consolidate its positions. Excluding Panex, and at a constant scope of consolidation, revenue rose by an organic 14.1 percent in the region. Arno brand maintained its Brazilian market leadership in small appliances, despite an increase in Brazil's real currency that made it easier to import Asian products.

SEB said the integration of Panex is proceeding and synergies are developing gradually. Favorable trends continued in Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela, and the company noticed an upswing in Chile.

Other Worldwide Market Results
In the rest of the world, Groupe SEB said it made gains in developing Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and other markets that it calls "tomorrow’s growth drivers." SEB pursued its "robust" expansion in Japan and is working to strengthen its position in South Korea, Australia, the CIS and Turkey.

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