Unilever sales in emerging markets bounced back in Q4

Unilever delivered better than forecast full-year results today, after seeing resurgent sales in its emerging markets and its 25th successive quarter of growth in the UK.

Despite what the consumer goods titan said were continued “strong economic headwinds”, underlying sales growth for the full year of 2013 was up 4.3%, slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations.

The results were greeted positively by analysts, especially as they followed a surprise profit warning in September.

Unilever’s businesses in emerging markets grew by 8.4% in the fourth quarter, compared to a 5.9% rise in the third quarter.

Underlying sales at the company, whose products include Magnum ice cream, Lynx deodorant and Domestos, rose by 4.1% in the quarter.

It said its markets in Europe were “flat” with early signs of stabilisation in southern Europe offset by slowing growth in northern Europe.

But while declines in spreads weighed heavily on performance in Germany and the Netherlands, the UK has another year of “sustained growth”, helped by the relaunch of its Flora spread.

“2013 provides further evidence of the progress we are making in transforming Unilever into a sustainable growth company,” said chief executive Paul Polman.

“We have delivered another year of consistent underlying sales growth and margin expansion coupled with strong cash flow. This has been achieved despite significant economic headwinds and highly competitive markets and reflects the benefits of strong margin accretive innovations and active cost management.”