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Godiva sees sales exceeding US$1b as snackmaker IPO looms

[LONDON] Godiva, the world's largest premium chocolate retailer, will probably exceed its target for 2017 revenue of US$1 billion on the growing appetite for Belgian sweets in Asia, according to the head of its parent company.

Godiva is seeking to open about 190 stores in mainland China by the end of 2019 as new products helped boost sales to a record US$792 million last year, Cem Karakas, chief executive officer of Godiva-parent Pladis, said in an interview at the company's headquarters in London. Pladis, which has annual sales of US$5.2 billion, intends to list its shares in London around 2020, Mr Karakas also said.

"We are likely to exceed US$1 billion from Godiva-brand sales with the new initiatives we've launched," Mr Karakas said.

The chocolate maker is seeking to strengthen its dominant position in parts of Asia as Swiss rival Lindt & Spruengli AG has set the target of overtaking Godiva as the world's largest premium chocolatier as early as 2020.

Pladis, the London-based biscuits and confectionery division of Yildiz Holding AS, will focus on making the Godiva brand accessible to a greater number of consumers, Mr Karakas said. In China, 30 per centt of Godiva's sales come from new products such as chocolate truffle milkshakes and soft serve praline ice creams.

There's a scarcity of food players available to investors on the London Stock Exchange, according to Mr Karakas. A vote from the UK to leave the European Union in a referendum later this month wouldn't change the company's ambitions to list shares in London, but it could change the country's trade relations with the European Union, which would be worrying to Pladis, he added.

"I'm not a UK voter evidently, but as a businessman, I hope the UK will vote to remain in the EU."

Yildiz, the world's third-largest snacks maker after Kellogg Co and Oreo maker Mondelez International Inc, completed its acquisition of Godiva from Campbell Soup Co for US$850 million in 2008. In 2014, it acquired Britain's United Biscuits for US$3.3 billion.