Sodexo says emerging markets driving growth


French catering and vouchers group Sodexo posted a 7.4 percent rise in quarterly revenue, driven by growing demand for its services in emerging markets.

Sales reached 4.95 billion euros ($6.5 billion) in the three months to November, its first quarter, Sodexo said on Wednesday. Like-for-like growth was 2.1 percent, including an 8.6 percent rise in countries outside Europe and North America.

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The world's second-biggest catering services company after British group Compass reiterated its forecast for "modest growth" in full-year revenue and operating profit excluding currency effects.

"We are confident in our ability to seize growth opportunities in our markets, even if in the short term Sodexo's organic growth is likely to be modest given the current economic environment, particularly in Europe," chief executive Michel Landel said.

Sodexo, with a 420,000-strong global workforce, manages canteens and facilities for office workers, armed forces, schools and prisons, and sells vouchers for meals and gifts.

As the European economic climate weighs on profitability, Sodexo has been expanding in emerging markets, which now represent a fifth of sales, and estimates the global market for its services at 800 billion euros.

It unveiled a plan in November to lower costs and cut jobs to help meet its goals of a 6.3 percent operating margin by the end of 2014/15, compared with 5.4 percent for 2011/12, and average annual revenue growth of 7 percent.

Sodexo is targeting savings of 130-150 million euros from 2014/15.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Dan Lalor)