Catering giant Sodexo sees flat 2010 as rising unemployment deters clients

FRANCE&rsquo;S Sodexo warned of flat sales in fiscal 2010 in the face of rising unemployment and cautious spending by clients.<br /><br />The world&rsquo;s second-biggest catering services company after Compass&nbsp; nonetheless said yesterday it was on track to meet medium-term objectives after reporting fiscal 2009 results in line with its guidance.<br /><br />Analysts said the outlook was disappointing, despite its commitment to maintain the dividend at &euro;1.27 (90p) per share. &ldquo;The flat organic growth (in 2010) is three to five per cent below expectations,&rdquo; said Exane BNP Paribas analyst Matthias Desmarais.<br /><br />Sodexo chief executive Michel Landel said on a conference call the catering services and vouchers company was not yet out of the downturn, and added sales would slow in the first half of fiscal 2010 before recovering in the second half.<br /><br />Sodexo reported 2009 annual sales of &euro;14.7bn, up 2.5 per cent year-on-year on an like-for-like basis, and operating profit of &euro;746m, up 8.1 per cent.