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Symrise shares slip on fragrance cartel probe

By Jagoda Darlak and Linda Pasquini

(Reuters) -Shares in Symrise dropped as much as 4% on Wednesday after Swiss antitrust authorities said the German group was subject to an investigation into an alleged fragrances cartel, though the company sought to play down its role in the probe.

Symrise confirmed it was involved as a witness in the probe, which includes rivals Givaudan SA, Firmenich International and International Flavors & Fragrances Inc, and would provide requested documents to authorities.

"We don't consider ourselves as affected," Symrise's Chief Executive Heinz-Juergen Bertram said in a media call.

"We have nothing to hide," he added.

News of the probe into the supply of fragrances and fragrance ingredients broke on Tuesday, when Givaudan confirmed it was being targeted.

Symrise said it had a 12% share of the combined market for fragrances, flavours, aroma chemicals and cosmetic ingredients last year, with Givaudan, IFF and Firmenich accounting for 18%, 22% and 11%, respectively.

The company, whose fragrances are used in the perfumes of French luxury groups LVMH and Kering, expects its core profit (EBITDA) margin to be stable at 20% this year, below analysts' average estimate of 20.4% in a company-provided poll.

It plans to increase prices by a low single digit percentage this year, as it sees energy and raw material costs continuing to rise.

Symrise, which saw high demand for pet food ingredients during a surge in demand for pets during the pandemic, said its single largest investment was currently in pet food production in the United States.

The company's shares were down 3% at 1030 GMT, paring losses after hitting their lowest in almost three years.

(Reporting by Jagoda Darlak and Linda Pasquini in Gdansk and Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt; Editing by Ludwig Burger and Mark Potter)