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European Earnings: Inflation Hits, Helps Profit

Rising food and energy prices took a toll on the bottom line of Associated British Foods -- the owner of retailer Primark -- the company said on Tuesday.

AB Foods reported a 5 percent jump in first-half profit, but warned that economic conditions were difficult, as prices of rice and oil continue to hit record highs.

The company's adjusted pre-tax profit for the 24 weeks to March 1 was $562 million, up from $534 million a year ago and within range of analysts' forecasts that varied between $546 million and $630 million.

Group revenue jumped 15 percent to $7.39 billion.

"These good results demonstrate that the group remains on track, with strong growth from Grocery, Ingredients and Agriculture and another excellent performance from Primark," Chief Executive George Weston said in the results statement.

Syngenta Tops Target

One company who profited from high food prices was Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta, which topped forecasts with a 28 percent rise in first-quarter sales to $3.8 billion.

Analysts polled by Reuters expected figures in the proximity of $3.67 billion.

It also reiterated its forecast for a 20 percent rise in earnings per share for 2008.

Software AG, Havas

Tech company Software AG insisted it was not feeling the effects of an economic slowdown, despite missing market expectations for first-quarter license sales.

It also confirmed its full-year outlook, targeting a 24 to 27 percent increase in license sales for 2008, adjusted for currency effects.

New software license sales, an important indicator for future revenue, increased 28 percent at constant currencies to $87.9 million, short of the lowest of 14 estimates in a Reuters poll that averages $101.5 million.

Germany's second-largest software maker said its acquisition of U.S. peer webMethods the previous year failed to produce the sales growth it had expected.

And in France, advertising group Havas shook off the negative effect of a weak dollar.

The company said sales excluding certain items like currency effects rose 7.4 percent.

First-quarter sales rose 2.5 percent to $547.3 million, boosted by growth throughout the business, compared to the $534 million in the same period in 2007.

It said sales grew in every region, including the U.S.

-- Reuters contributed to this report