Unilever relying on emerging markets to counter sluggish Europe

Consumer goods colossus Unilever had to rely on robust growth from emerging markets as it grew marginally slower than expectations in the first quarter.

Consumer goods colossus Unilever had to rely on robust growth from emerging markets as it grew marginally slower than expectations in the first quarter.

The Anglo-Dutch group grew at an underlying rate of 4.9% in the three months to March 31st, with a contraction in its foods business holding back more robust growth in personal care and home care. It announced a 10.7% increase in its quarterly dividend to €0.269.

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Unilever was dependent on growth remaining "solid" in emerging markets despite the macro-economic headwinds as developed markets "remained sluggish".

Explaining the inertia in developed markets, Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman (pictured) said Europe faced a particularly strong prior-year comparator and was held back by the slow start to the ice cream season and weakness in spreads.

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Turning to emerging markets, he pointed out that these represented over 57% of group turnover, and said the strong performance in these regions reflected "the impact of our successful innovations, the introduction of our brands into new markets, improved product quality and competitive in-market execution".

Overall, turnover increased 0.2% to €12.2bn, held back in part by a negative currency impact of 3.5% and recent disposals that reduced turnover by 1.1%.

Said Polman: "This performance is further evidence that Unilever is becoming fit to win and capable of delivering consistent growth ahead of our markets. Our strategy is working."

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