Unilever chief executive Paul Polman has played down talk of an economic recovery, saying he saw no signs of “green sprouts”, after sales and profits at teh fmcg giant slumped.

“Politicians and the public in general are disposed to look at some green sprouts,” he told The Times. “The reality is quite different. Employment and consumer confidence don’t show any signs of improvement and I don’t see that happening in 2010.”

His comments came after Unilever yesterday announced a major drop in pre-tax profits from €7bn to €4.9bn for 2009, while total sales fell 1.7% to €39.8bn.

However, price cuts helped drive volume growth of 2.3% over the year, accelerating in the fourth quarter to 5%.

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