London: Unilever reported first-quarter sales growth in line with estimates as gains in its laundry detergent and personal-care units offset falling prices in Europe.

Underlying sales increased 4.7%, London- and Rotterdam-based Unilever said on Thursday, compared with the 4.6% median estimate of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Growth slowed from 4.9% in the fourth quarter, when the maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flagged 2016 would be a tougher year. The company said on Thursday that consumer demand remained “fragile" and volume growth slowed in the quarter.

“We are maintaining momentum despite a tougher external environment, with all four categories gaining market share," chief executive officer Paul Polman said in a statement.

Polman is grappling with lower consumer prices in Europe and a slowdown in emerging markets such as China and India that account for about 60% of its sales. To mitigate this, the CEO has appointed a new leader to reinvigorate the struggling spreads business and is said to be considering a sale of Unilever’s Latin American soy-based juice unit.

Unilever shares rose 1.7% in Amsterdam on Wednesday, giving the company a market value about 123 billion euros ($139 billion).

Underlying sales exclude acquisitions, divestments, and currency fluctuations. Bloomberg

Close