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US chocolate manufacturer Hershey has reported a 24% rise in fourth-quarter earnings for 2013 to $186m, compared with $149.8m for the same period a year ago.

For the quarter ended 31 December 2013, net sales increased 11.7% to $1.96bn, compared with $1.75bn in the previous year.

The company stated that the revenues for the quarter in North America slightly exceeded expectations, driven by a solid holiday season and solid volume growth in North America and international markets.

Sales outside the US and Canada contributed 3.5 points to the company’s overall top-line growth.

Hershey president and CEO John P Bilbrey said, "The Hershey Company ended 2013 strongly with high-quality net sales and adjusted earnings per share-diluted growth slightly exceeding our expectations."

"The Hershey Company ended 2013 strongly with high-quality net sales and adjusted earnings per share-diluted growth slightly exceeding our expectations."

For the year ended 31 December, the company recorded a 7.6% increase in revenues to $7.15bn, while earnings rose 24.1% to $820.4m from $660.9m in the year ago period.

For fiscal 2014, Hershey plans to focus on targeted growth initiatives in key global markets, new product launches in the US and international markets.

The company expects net sales growth of up to 7%, driven primarily by core brand volume growth as well as innovation such as York Minis, Hershey’s Spreads, Lancaster Soft Crèmes Caramels and Brookside Crunchy Clusters in the US, and Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe in China.

SM&A expenses are expected to increase in 2014, building on the investments in go-to-market capabilities established over the last few years and the company’s Insights Driven Performance initiative.

As a result, the company expects adjusted earnings per share-diluted growth of around 11% for the full-year.


Image: Hershey manufactures chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products. Photo courtesy of Evan-Amos.