Feb 3, 2011
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Unilever reports profit growth, strong emerging markets

Feb 3, 2011

THE HAGUE, Feb 3, 2011 (AFP) - Anglo-Dutch food and cosmetics giant Unilever reported Thursday a 26-percent rise in net profit for 2010 and a better than expected fourth quarter result, mainly due to higher emerging market sales.

Hair repair from Dove, a Unilever brand

Net profit for the year was 4.24 billon euros ($5.85 billion), the company said, while the result for the fourth quarter rose 15 percent from a year earlier to 955 million euros.

The fourth quarter result was higher than a figure of 918 million euros predicted by analysts for Dow Jones Newswires.

"2010 results were strong despite intense competition, weak consumer confidence in many markets and the impact of rising commodities costs in the second half," Unilever said in a statement.

"Whilst markets showed little or no growth in the developed economies, emerging market growth remained healthy.

Unilever's shares rose 1.47 percent to 22.43 euros shortly after the opening of the Amsterdam stock exchange.

Sales volumes grew by 10.2 percent in Africa, Asia and eastern and Central Europe in 2010, compared to growth of 4.8 percent in the Americas and 1.4 percent in austerity-hit western Europe, the company said.

Higher volumes offset a 1.6 percent drop in prices from 2009 to 2010. In the fourth quarter, prices stabilised at zero percent compared to a year earlier.

"I expect that prices will rise again by 0.5 percent to one percent during the first part of 2011, partly because the price of raw materials will increase," Nico van Geest, analyst for brokerage firm Keijser Capital, told AFP.

The company's turnover for 2010 was 44.26 billion euros, and in the fourth quarter 10.82 billion euros.

Excluding the impact of exchange rate changes, acquisitions and disposals, this represented a 4.1 percent rise in turnover for the year and 5.1 percent for the quarter, the statement said.

Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive officer, told a tele-conference that trading conditions for 2011 were expected to be similar to those in 2010, but made no concrete predictions.

The company's financial director Jean-Marc Huet added that Unilever managed to cut costs by 1.4 billion euros in 2010, and hoped to save another one billion euros in 2011.

Unilever's products include Lipton tea, Knorr soup and Rexona deodorant. It employs about 163,000 people in more than 100 countries.

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