Zurich — Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli reported its weakest sales growth in nearly a decade on Tuesday, hurt by ongoing problems at its Russell Stover business. The group’s shares fell nearly 2% in early trading after it missed its own long-term target and the average of analyst estimates, chiefly due to a sales drop in North America driven by a decline at Russell Stover, the maker of chocolate assortment boxes. Lindt’s 2017 organic sales growth slipped to 3.7% from 6% a year earlier, its lowest level since 2009. Some analysts said they were concerned about the lack of a new efficiency plan to deal with the downturn, adding that the company’s long-term growth target of 6% to 8% could be under threat. "Lindt’s premium valuation is built on the back of its strong organic sales growth, mostly in mature markets in whatever conditions. Denting that reputation is likely to dent the multiple," said Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux. Lindt, known for its gold foil-wrapped cho...

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