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Nestle Profits Get Boost From Alcon Sale

GENEVA -- Swiss food and drinks giant Nestle boasted a full-year net profit of 34.23 billion Swiss francs ($35.8 billion) Thursday, inflated by the sale of its shares in eye car company Alcon (ACL) that added 24.5 billion francs net to its balance sheet in 2010.

The company reported a net profit of 10.4 billion francs for 2009.

Excluding the extraordinary one-off gains from Alcon, Nestle posted a net profit of 8.78 billion francs from continuing operations compared with 9.26 billion francs the previous year.

The Vevey, Switzerland-based maker of Nescafe, Perrier, Jenny Craig and Haagen Dazs said its continuing operations achieved organic growth of 6%, slightly above analyst expectations. CEO Paul Bulcke said the company's target for 2011 would be 5 to 6%.

Sales reached 109.7 billion francs last year, up from 107.6 billion in 2009.

Nestle achieved almost a third of its sales -- some 34.3 billion francs -- with food and drinks in the Americas region, despite strong headwind from the weakness of the U.S. dollar compared to the franc.

The sale of its remaining 52% stake in eye care company Alcon to drug maker Novartis (NVS) allowed Nestle to launch new products, cut its debt, buy back shares and build new factories around the world last year. Early in 2010 it bought Kraft's (KFT) frozen pizza business.

On Thursday, Nestle announced a proposed increase in shareholder dividends of 15.6% to 1.85 francs per share.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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