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Unilever Q1 sales lifted by price hikes, emerging markets

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04/26/2012 | 10:34am CEST

LONDON (Reuters) - Consumer goods giant Unilever (>> Unilever plc) (>> UNILEVER) beat forecasts with an 8.4 percent rise in first-quarter sales on Thursday, helped by price hikes and emerging market growth.

LONDON (Reuters) - Consumer goods giant Unilever (>> Unilever plc) (>> UNILEVER) beat forecasts with an 8.4 percent rise in first-quarter sales on Thursday, helped by price hikes and emerging market growth.

The Anglo-Dutch maker of brands like Dove and Knorr is battling high input costs from rising commodity prices such as crude and vegetable oils, and slow growth in developed nations. It also cautioned that emerging market growth has started to slow especially in eastern Europe and Russia.

"The competition is intense, we have seen some moderation in emerging market growth while developed markets remain muted, but we have had a good start to the year and we are becoming more competitive," finance director Jean-Marc Huet told a briefing.

Unilever, the world's No. 3 consumer goods group, is holding to its forecast for modest profit margin expansion this year, albeit weighted towards the second half of the year when some of its commodity costs are expected to ease as expensive forward hedges fall away.

"Despite the one-off tailwinds, this reads as a still-strong quarter to us," said analyst Martin Deboo at brokers Investec.

Unilever Plc shares were up 3.1 pct at 2,143 pence by 0826 GMT, in a firmer FTSE 100 <.FTSE>. The stock has underperformed European food and beverage stocks <.SX3P> by almost 10 percent so far this year.

The company, with annual sales of 46.5 billion euros, reported that first-quarter underlying sales rose 8.4 percent beating a company-compiled forecast of 6.4 percent, and compared to growth of 6.5 percent in 2011.

Emerging markets, which make up 56 percent of Unilever's business, grew 11.9 percent.

Within categories personal care led the field with growth of 10.4 percent. The group's Clear anti-dandruff shampoo, recently launched in the U.S., was the fastest growing overall brand.

Unilever's 8.4 percent growth was ahead of the world's No 1 food group Nestle (>> Nestle SA), which showed first-quarter sales growth of 7.2 percent, and France's Danone (>> DANONE), at 6.9 percent. U.S. rival Procter & Gamble (P&G) (>> The Procter & Gamble Company) reports on the first three months of 2012 on April 27.

Unilever saw its commodity cost bill rise 15 percent last year. It expects around a 5 percent increase this year but that is showing signs of starting to creep higher again.

The competitive environment is also getting more intense: plans by P&G to cut costs by $10 billion are fuelling concerns about heightened competition in home and personal care products.

"The external macro-environment remains difficult and high input cost headwinds persist," said Chief Executive Paul Polman in a statement.

Unilever, which also sells Lipton tea, Ragu sauces and Blue Band margarine, reported overall three-month turnover rose 11.9 percent to 12.1 billion euros, and it paid a quarterly dividend of 0.243 euros a share, up 8 percent from the previous year.

(Editing by Sophie Walker)

By David Jones

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
DANONE -0.12% 66.38 Real-time Quote.-5.10%
NESTLÉ -0.27% 75.2 Delayed Quote.-10.26%
PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY -1.53% 73.8 Delayed Quote.-18.43%
UNILEVER 0.30% 3872.5 Delayed Quote.-6.13%
UNILEVER (NL) -0.20% 45.255 Delayed Quote.-3.62%
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Financials (€)
Sales 2018 24 988 M
EBIT 2018 3 764 M
Net income 2018 2 369 M
Debt 2018 13 686 M
Yield 2018 2,99%
P/E ratio 2018 17,84
P/E ratio 2019 16,50
EV / Sales 2018 2,33x
EV / Sales 2019 2,19x
Capitalization 44 522 M
Duration : Period :
Danone Technical Analysis Chart | BN | FR0000120644 | 4-Traders
Technical analysis trends DANONE
Short TermMid-TermLong Term
Income Statement Evolution
Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 31
Average target price 75,6 €
Spread / Average Target 14%
EPS Revisions
Emmanuel Faber Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Cécile Cabanis CFO, Executive VP-Strategy & Information Systems
Jean Gaston Laurent Lead Independent Director
Benoît Potier Independent Director
Isabelle Seillier Non-Independent Director
Sector and Competitors
1st jan.Capitalization (M$)
DANONE-5.10%54 701
NESTLÉ-10.26%239 909
GENERAL MILLS-25.74%25 737