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Unilever sees more volatility after steering through 2015

International Business
Tue, 19 Jan 2016

London: Consumer goods group Unilever said it was preparing itself for tougher market conditions and another year of volatility in 2016 after it outperformed the wider market with better-than-expected 2015 sales growth.

Turnover at the Anglo-Dutch maker of Knorr soups, Dove soap and Lipton teas rose 10 percent to 53.3 billion euros, helped by a 5.9 percent tailwind from exchange rates. Underlying sales rose 4.1 percent, beating an average 3.9 percent forecast from analysts.

Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said the group had delivered consistent progress in challenging markets and had a strong finish to the year with fourth quarter underlying sales up 4.9 percent, versus analysts' estimate of 4 percent.

"Emerging markets were up 7.1 percent, with volume coming back quite strongly," he said in an interview.

He said global economic uncertainty meant 2016 was hard to call however.

"Our job is to deliver a consistent performance despite the bumps in the road, he said.

"Our best estimate is we will deliver growth between three to five percent and our current momentum rate would put us squarely in the middle of that range."

The past year has been one of improvement for Unilever, which was hammered in 2014 by a slowdown in emerging markets such as China, which caused retailers and wholesalers to curb purchases.

Core operating profit rose by 12 percent to 7.9 billion euros, broadly in line with analysts' expectation, the company said on Tuesday.  

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