Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has posted a 4 per cent increase in final quarter sales across its global markets, helping the firm boost its full year profits.
The group, which is behind Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Domestos, Toni&Guy and Dove, saw annual pre-tax profits rise by 9 per cent to £7.1billion.
Across the group’s operations in emerging markets, sales grew by 6.3 per cent in the year, with the Pot Noodle, Knorr and Bango brands proving particularly popular.
Boost: Unilever, which owns the Marmite brand, saw profits rise by 9% in the last year
Annual turnover rose by 1.9 per cent to £46.9billion.
Bemoaning ‘challenging’ conditions, sales in Europe edged up 0.3 per cent amid ‘subdued volume growth and continued price deflation.
Excluding the company’s spreads business, full year underlying sales growth came in at 3.5 per cent.
Underlying sales growth was positive across all of Unilever’s major categories. Personal care sales rose by 2.9 per cent, while home care, foods and refreshments sales increased by 4.4, 1 and 4.9 per cent respectively.
Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive, said: ‘We have delivered a good all-round performance with competitive growth, including an innovation-led improvement in volumes in the fourth quarter, and substantially increased margin, earnings and cash flow.’
He added: ‘Our priorities for 2018 are to grow volumes ahead of our markets, maintain strong delivery from our savings programmes and complete the integration of Foods & Refreshment, as well as the exit from spreads.
‘We expect this will translate into another year of underlying sales growth in the 3% – 5% range, and an improvement in underlying operating margin and cash flow, that keeps us on track for the 2020 targets.’
Last year, Unilever fended off a £115billion takeover attempt from US giant Kraft Heinz. Later in the year, Unilever sold spreads brands including Becel and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to private equity house KKR in a £6billion deal.
As part of its 2020 turnaround plan, Unilever aims to make €6 billion worth of savings over the next few years.
The group’s share price is down 0.76 per cent to 3,969.75p.
Sales: Unilever saw full year underlying sales growth rise by 3.5 per cent.
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