Unilever sales growth misses estimates on emerging markets slowdown
The firm’s underlying sales rose 3.8%—falling short of a predicted 4.3%
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London: Unilever NV, the maker of Dove soap and Lipton tea, reported second-quarter revenue growth that missed analysts’ estimates as Asian emerging markets continued to slow and the amount of food sold stagnated.
Underlying sales rose 3.8% in the period, the London- and Rotterdam-based company said on Thursday in a statement. The median estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 4.3% increase.
Under chief executive officer Paul Polman, Unilever has expanded its personal-care business, the company’s biggest and most profitable division, while selling slower-growth food brands such as Slim-Fast diet products and Ragu pasta sauce. Sales slowed in developing markets such as China, while food volume was little changed despite benefiting from Easter falling in the second quarter.
“The company remains in a slight growth trap which is attributable to its mature markets, where currencies are relatively firm, being static in contrast to the emerging markets, where currencies fell sharply in the past 12 months,” Chris Wickham, an analyst at Oriel Securities, said in a note on Thursday.
Unilever shares fell as much as 1.9% in Amsterdam trading on Thursday, paring their annual gain to about 8% and the company’s market value to about €97 billion (around Rs.7.85 trillion).
The volume of goods sold rose 1.9% in the quarter, lower than the 2.5% median estimate. Underlying sales growth excludes the effect of acquisitions, disposals and currency fluctuations. Emerging-market sales increased 6.6%, trailing the 10% expansion in the prior year’s quarter, while revenue in developed markets rose 0.3%.
“Our markets have been challenging and we have experienced a further slowdown in the emerging countries while developed markets are not yet picking up,” Polman said.
Total revenue in the quarter fell 5.5% to €24.1 billion, hurt by the weakness of currencies such as the South African rand, the Argentine peso and the Indonesian rupiah against the euro. The core operating margin, a measure of profitability, was unchanged at 14% in the first half, measured in current exchange rates. Bloomberg