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‘No room for complacency’ warns Unilever chief, as sales and profits rise

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Jan-2013

Unilever reports increased Q4 sales and profit

Unilever has warned of intense competition and volatile commodity costs but reported increased sales and profit in the fourth quarter, with double-digit growth in emerging markets.

The maker of Magnum ice creams, Dove soaps and Knorr soups reported a 10.5% increase in sales to €51.3bn, exceeding €50bn for the first time. Meanwhile, profit was up 7% to €4.9bn. For the fourth quarter ended December 31, sales were up 7.8% with strong growth from emerging economies, which became the company’s biggest market in 2012.

In Europe, the company said it was affected by the weak economy but still managed to grow, with particularly strong demand from France and the UK. It said it had responded to consumer needs with lower priced products.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman warned: “There is no room for complacency: markets will remain challenging, with intense competition and volatile commodity costs.”

However, he said in a statement that breaking the €50bn mark was an important milestone in the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to double its sales from €40bn to €80bn while reducing its environmental footprint.

“We continue to make good progress in transforming Unilever into a sustainable growth company,” he said.

“…These results have been achieved in tough economic conditions, with volatile commodity costs and in an intensely competitive environment.”

Shore Capital analyst Darren Shirley said that Unilever was “well placed to deliver further ‘steady and sustainable’ margin expansion through 2013” driven by the more than 55% of its sales coming from emerging markets, and an ongoing cost saving programme.

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