BERLIN — Beiersdorf got off to a strong start in 2004. First-quarter results released Thursday revealed the Beiersdorf Consumer division showed a 7.3 percent nominal gain in earnings before interest and taxes and, as reported, a 4.2 percent nominal rise in sales for the period.

The consumer division replaces the former Cosmed and medical divisions under the Hamburg-based group’s new corporate structure. It encompasses body and facial care under the Nivea, Labello, Florena, Juvena, La Prairie, Eucerin labels and other brands, as well as Curad and Curitas plasters.

Consumer EBIT for the period reached $147.3 million, or 124 million euros, up from $137.8 million, or 116 million euros, the previous year. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates. Beiersdorf noted that prior year figures were restated to reflect the new divisional structure. The EBIT margin rose from 12.4 percent, compared with 12.1 percent a year earlier. Sales grew to $1.18 billion, or 994 million euros, up from $1.13 billion, or 954 million euros, in 2003. This represents a currency adjusted growth rate of 6.9 percent.

Group sales, which also include the Tesa adhesive division, rose a nominal 3.5 percent in Europe, and 5.3 percent in Germany, despite the country’s weak economic climate. Sales in the U.K. leapt 22 percent on an adjusted currency basis, and in northern Europe sales were up almost 14 percent. In Russia, however, Beiersdorf said knockoffs negatively impacted sales, which were below last year’s levels.

Sales in the Americas slipped 1.4 percent to $191.3 million, or 161 million euros, but grew 12.5 percent on a currency-adjusted basis, the group said. Consumer division EBIT in the Americas reached $7.1 million, or 6 million euros, up from $5.9 million, or 5 million euros, for the period in 2003. The group noted that La Prairie also experienced double-digit growth in the U.S., and said positive developments in many Latin American markets also supported growth. In Africa, Asia and Australia sales rose a nominal 13.6 percent and 17.3 percent when adjusted for currency effects.

The Beiersdorf Group increased first-quarter EBIT to $162.8 million, or 137 million euros, up from $150.9 million, or 127 million euros, in 2003. Profits after taxes rose to $104.5 million, or 88 million euros, compared with $98.6 million, or 83 million euros. Return on sales after taxes rose to 7.5 percent, up from 7.3 percent, and group sales rose a nominal 3.8 percent to $1.39 billion, or 1.17 billion euros.— Melissa Drier

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