Unilever said increased marketing activity has boosted fourth quarter sales growth of its top 400 brands and the Anglo-Dutch group reiterated its full-year earnings forecast.

The maker of Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Skippy peanut butter and Knorr soups expects sales to rise 6% in the quarter, up from 5.4% in the third quarter and 4.4% in the second and 3% in the first.

Unilever is halfway through its five year Path to Growth strategy of reducing brands and cutting jobs to focus on its best-sellers and has set targets of ‘high-teen’ percentage growth in earnings and 4.5% to 5% for sales growth in 2002.

Underlying sales growth is expected to be in the range of 5% to 5.5% for the quarter giving 3.5% to 4% for the full year.

Acquisitions and disposals will reduce sales in the fourth quarter by some 700m euros and cut profit by 90m euros for the fourth quarter.

Unilever expects costs of 220m euros and goodwill amortisation of 1.38bn euros for the full-year, while net interest is estimated at 1.28bn euros and exceptional items of 1.2bn euros for the same period.