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Consumer group Unilever is putting the $143bn flirtation from Kraft Heinz behind it, making no mention of the ill-fated takeover bid in its first-quarter trading statement in which it revealed a comfortable rise in revenues.
Turnover rose by 6 per cent compared to the same period in 2016, reaching €13.3bn, with a tailwind from currency movements. Sales growth stood at 6 per cent for emerging markets.
The company recently announced plans to offload its spreads business encompassing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and Flora, which have been holding back broader sales growth. It is also buying back €5bn of shares in a broad revamp. So far, it’s positive on the path ahead.
CEO Paul Polman said:
The actions we are taking keep us on track for another year of underlying sales growth ahead of our markets, in the 3-5% range. We also expect an improvement in underlying operating margin this year… and strong cash flow. We are raising the dividend by 12%, reflecting the confidence in our outlook.
Still, it’s not plain sailing:
Market conditions remained challenging. In the markets in which we operate growth was around 2% with negative volumes. Growth in India recovered from the uncertainty experienced due to the removal of the Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes in November 2016, while Brazil continued to be adversely impacted by the economic crisis. Markets in Europe and North America declined in the first quarter.
And the UK is something of an odd one out:
In Europe consumer demand remained weak and the retail environment challenging. Promotional intensity was high leading to price deflation in many countries apart from the United Kingdom where we have taken price increases to recover the additional costs from the Sterling devaluation.