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Croda's consumer care unit misses profit forecast, shares slip

(Reuters) -Croda International's biggest division that serves the beauty, fragrance and home care markets missed market expectations for annual profit on Tuesday, sending shares of the British speciality chemicals group 4% lower.

The London-listed company's consumer care unit, which made up nearly 43% of Croda's revenue in 2022, reported adjusted operating profit of 204.7 million pounds ($245.55 million) for the year ended Dec. 31.

That was more than 8% ahead of the previous year but trailed market expectations of 221.7 million pounds. Volumes at the unit fell because of customers cutting excess stock, especially in North America.

"We expect the customer destocking that has been particularly apparent in North America to come to an end in the first half year, supporting continued sales growth this year in Consumer Care," the company said in a statement.

Croda, which counts Unilever and Procter & Gamble among its customers, is shifting focus to its life sciences and consumer divisions, having completed the sale of most of its performance technologies and industrial chemicals division to commodities group Cargill Inc last year.

The East Yorkshire-based company sees demand for COVID-19 vaccines falling in 2023 but said it expects robust sales in its non-COVID related pharma business and crop care operations, which include production of fertilisers and pesticides, to offset that decline.

Croda supplies vaccine delivery components to Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine as part of a five-year contract.

London-listed Croda's shares were down 4.2% at 1015 GMT.

The company's adjusted operating profit for the full-year ended Dec. 31 rose nearly 10% to 515.1 million pounds, beating a company-compiled average analyst forecast of 507.7 million pounds.

($1 = 0.8308 pounds)

(Reporting by Muhammed Husain in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Christina Fincher)