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UPDATE 2-HelloFresh sees market normalisation after 2020 home-cooking boom

Veronica Snoj and Milla Nissi
·2 min read

* Currency-adjusted Q4 sales beat expectations

* Expects markets to normalise this year

* Confirms 2021 outlook (Adds outlook comments from analyst call, share move)

By Veronica Snoj and Milla Nissi

March 2 (Reuters) - HelloFresh expects most of its markets to return to normal seasonality this year, the German meal kit delivery company said on Tuesday, after its 2020 sales more than doubled due to a lockdown-driven surge in home cooking.

The company, which delivers pre-portioned meal ingredients with recipes to subscribers and has its main market in the United States, is now riding an e-commerce boom spurred by the health crisis.

HelloFresh, which competes with U.S.-based meal kit company Blue Apron and takeaway food groups Delivery Hero and Just Eat Takeaway, confirmed its 2021 forecast of currency-adjusted sales growth between 20% and 25% and adjusted EBITDA margin in a range of 9% to 12%.

However, its shares were down 3.5% by 1015 GMT, underperforming the German mid-cap MDAX index, as analysts called the outlook "cautious".

HelloFresh's finance chief, Christian Gaertner, told analysts in a call that the first quarter had started on a strong footing and there could be an upside to the sales guidance.

However, he said he did not expect to revisit the forecasts before the next quarterly report.

"We try to take advantage of January and February, because they're usually the months where median prices are down and where people go with good resolutions into the New Year and cook more," Chief Executive Officer Dominik Richter said.

Richter said he expected to see a step up of customers in the first quarter from the 5.3 million the company had in the last quarter of 2020.

HelloFresh reported currency-adjusted fourth-quarter sales of 1.16 billion euros ($1.39 billion), above analysts' expectations of 1.05 billion euros, and up 125.9% year-on-year. ($1 = 0.8317 euros) (Reporting by Veronica Snoj and Milla Nissi in Gdansk; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Subhranshu Sahu)