Sluggish demand in Europe has done little to upset growth at Unilever. Its shares continued their good run this week after the Anglo-Dutch giant broke the €50bn annual turnover mark.
Dressed in a space suit to promote its ad push for Axe deodorant, Unilever CEO Paul Polman reported 7.8% organic sales growth, supported by particularly strong growth in emerging markets. The sales increase and a margin rise of 30bps to 13.8% beat analyst expectations, sending shares climbing 3% to £25.26 on Wednesday.
“Q4 was an excellent quarter for Unilever, continuing its run of high-quality, consistently strong performance,” said Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood. Its shares have gained more than 20% over the past year. Personal care and home care have performed particularly well, while food sales growth has been more modest.
Britvic and AG Barr both reported encouraging quarterly sales updates this week ahead of their merger, which is now expected to become effective at the end of February. Shares in Britvic climbed a fraction to £4.30 on Wednesday after it reported a 4.8% increase in constant currency sales to £303.2m and announced the launch of Fruit Shoot in Spain and 21 new US states.
AG Barr shares gained 1% to £5.24 in trading on Thursday morning after it posted a 5% increase in fourth quarter sales, which Panmure analyst Damian McNeela said was “a good performance against a tough comparative”.
Shares in SABMiller also held up well this week despite a slowdown in sales growth in its third quarter. The beer giant said cold winter weather in China was one of the key reasons why sales growth slowed from 4% in the first half to 2% in the third quarter to 31 December.
China accounts for over a fifth of SABMiller’s beer volumes but only 2% of operating profits, which was why its shares were virtually unchanged at £30.23 on Thursday lunchtime.
Finsbury Food Group reported a modest 1.3% increase in sales to £103.3m for the six months to 29 December on Wednesday. The company’s cake and free-from businesses both performed well but the strength of the pound against the euro hit sales at its joint venture Lightbody Europe. Shares in the baker, which have risen 40% over the past year, increased 1% to 42.3p on Wednesday.