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Unilever First-Quarter Sales Top Expectations

Published on Apr 18 2019 9:50 AM

Unilever First-Quarter Sales Top Expectations

Consumer goods group Unilever reported stronger than expected quarterly underlying sales growth, helped by higher prices and volume, and strength in emerging markets.

The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry's ice cream also on Thursday stood by its outlook for the full year, which calls for underlying sales growth in the lower half of a 3 to 5% range.

Rival Nestlé also reported better-than-expected first-quarter sales on Thursday.

2020 Target

Following its first quarter under new chief executive Alan Jope, Anglo-Dutch Unilever also stood by its 2020 target for an underlying operating margin of 20%, set by Jope's predecessor Paul Polman in the wake of 2017's rebuffed $143 billion takeover offer by Kraft Heinz.

Unilever's underlying operating margin was 18.4% in 2018.

In the first quarter, Unilever's underlying sales, stripping out acquisitions, disposals and currency moves, rose 3.1%. Analysts on average were expecting a 2.8 percent rise, according to a company-supplied consensus forecast.

Growth was balanced, with a 1.9% contribution from pricing, which is less than analysts expected, and 1.2 percent from volume gains, which is more than expected.

Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly told Reuters that many of the price increases were taken in emerging markets, where it is often easier to hold onto sales volume despite price increases.

Turnover fell 1.6% to €12.4 billion euros, due to the disposal of the spreads business.

News by Reuters, edited by Donna Ahern Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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