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L'Oreal 2006 Profits Rise, Says Confident For 2007

L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics group, reported a 22nd consecutive annual rise in operating profit on Thursday but its earnings came in slightly below average expectations in a Reuters analysts poll.

"These results and the dynamism they demonstrate make us confident for 2007," the company said in a statement.

L'Oreal said underlying operating profit rose 12.1% to 2.541 billion euros ($3.34 billion) in 2006, against an average poll forecast of 2.549 billion euros, while earnings per share rose 14.7% to 2.98 euros as the company bought back 15 million shares.

Analysts had on average expected earnings per share of 2.99 euros, according to the poll.

"All divisions and all (geographic) zones contributed homogenously to this rise in our profitability," the maker of Garnier shampoos, Giorgio Armani perfumes and Lancome make-up said in a statement.

Pre-exceptional net profit rose 11.9% to 1.833 billion euros. The average forecast was for L'Oreal to report a net profit of 1.849 billion euros.

It said it would propose increasing its dividend 18% to 1.18 euros.