France's Agrial reports sales dip as pandemic bites but profit rises

PARIS, April 12 (Reuters) - France's largest agri-food cooperative group Agrial said on Monday its sales fell in 2020 as it suffered from prolonged bar and restaurant closures due to COVID-19 but deep cost cuts enabled it to still increase profit.

The group reported sales of 6.0 billion euros ($7.15 billion) for 2020, down from 6.1 billion in 2019 but net profit rose to 69 million euros from 52 million the previous year. Debt stood at 2.1 billion euros at the end of last year.

Agrial is a cooperative of 12,000 farmers and 21,000 employees with production sites in 11 countries. Its products include milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and processed meat, as well as drinks.

The group's catering sales fell 17%, which was not compensated for by a 2% rise in sales in supermarkets, the group said. Exports dropped 7%, hit by border closures and global upheavals due to the pandemic, it said.

The company said it had reduced its fixed costs and delayed some investments, without naming them, to help it withstand the uncertain outlook due to the pandemic.

It did not give guidance for 2021. ($1 = 0.8393 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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