Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Full-year profit at Unilever soars, sales edge lower | AP business

Unilever stockpiles Magnum ice-cream in case of no-deal Brexit Brexit: Unilever stockpiles Ben & Jerry's and Magnums
Priscilla Morrison | 03 February, 2019, 12:45

Unilever has said it is stockpiling Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Magnum bars ahead of the UK's departure from the European Union.

Chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly said there had been a EUR500,000 increase in inventory.

"We're building stocks for Brexit, obviously, and assuming the worst-case scenario there, that is a build-up similarly around sanctions and other things".

Unilever Chief Executive Alan Jope said looking forward, they have indicated that they expect growth to be more in the 3 to 4 percent range, which is the lower half of their ongoing guidance and it basically reflects some of the volatility in emerging markets, notably in Latin America.

It said it remained on track for its 2020 goals.

Past year also saw the company propose to move away from London to a single headquarters in Rotterdam to simplify its corporate structure.

The beauty and personal care division delivered underlying sales growth of 3.0% to €5.4bn.

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Full year sales growth was 3.1 per cent, excluding the spreads business it sold last year, with annual turnover €49.6bn (£43.4bn), a five per cent decrease on 2017.

However, pre-tax profits increased 52% to 12.38 billion euro (£10.84 billion).

Anglo-Dutch group Unilever was unable to meet fourth-quarter sales expectations on Thursday, as the consumer goods maker struggled with inflation in Argentina and flat volume growth in developed markets.

"Let me state. upfront, that accelerating quality growth will be my number-one priority", Jope told analysts.

In the fourth quarter, Unilever blamed Argentina, which makes up 2.5 percent of its overall business, for hyperinflation that led prices to spike more than 50 percent and therefore volume to fall more than 20 percent.

"With growth weak but H2 margins strong, we expect this to fuel the ongoing debate on Unilever's top line versus bottom line algorithm", Jefferies analysts said.

"We will capitalise on our strengthened organisation and portfolio, and our digital transformation programme, to bring higher levels of speed and agility", Jope added. "Strong delivery from our savings programmes will improve productivity and fund our growth ambitions", Jope said.

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