Unilever Profit Up 26% in 2010

Sales volumes grew by 10.2% in Africa, Asia and eastern and Central Europe compared to 4.8% in the Americas and 1.4% in austerity-hit western Europe.

Food and cosmetics giant Unilever reported on Feb. 3 a 26% rise in net profit for 2010 and a better than expected fourth quarter result, mainly due to higher emerging market sales.

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

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

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

The company's sales for 2010 were 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% rise in sales for the year and 5.1% for the quarter, the company said.

Higher volumes offset a 1.6% drop in prices from 2009 to 2010. In the fourth quarter, prices stabilized at zero percent compared to a year earlier. "I expect that prices will rise again by 0.5% to 1% during the first part of 2011, partly because the price of raw materials will increase," said Nico van Geest, analyst for brokerage firm Keijser Capital.

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.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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