Unilever Sales Growth Picks Up Amid Modest Price Increases

(Bloomberg) -- Unilever’s sales growth accelerated in the third quarter, providing some relief to investors concerned about the company’s strategy and performance after it botched a plan to simplify its legal structure.

The 4.5 percent growth in underlying sales was slightly above analysts’ consensus forecast for growth of 4.3 percent, as the maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap managed to eke out price increases. Excluding results from Argentina, which has been afflicted by hyperinflation, growth was 3.8 percent.

Key Insights
  • There was no news on the status of Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman. Analysts have said scrapping plans to consolidate Unilever’s headquarters in the Netherlands, following dissent from some U.K. shareholders, could accelerate his departure.
  • Wan Ling Martello, who leads Nestle SA’s Asia-Oceania-Africa region and has been cited as a possible successor to Polman, announced that she’s leaving the Swiss company to focus on new opportunities.
  • The numbers are in keeping with Unilever’s forecast in July that the company would make up lost ground in the second half after a truckers’ strike in Brazil held back sales in the early part of the year. Growth was “pretty pleasing,” Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said in a phone interview.
  • Even outside Argentina, price growth picked up slightly, especially in the beauty and personal-care business. Though volume is still increasing faster, that provided some relief from pressure on consumer staple brands facing competition from discount retail chains.

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  • For more on Unilever’s numbers, click here.

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