Unilever broke through the €50bn global turnover barrier for the first time in 2012, as soaring sales in emerging markets made up for lack of growth in regions including Europe.

Turnover at the FMCG giant increased by 10.5% to €51.3bn for the year.

Emerging markets saw underlying sales growth of 11.4% and now represented 55% of turnover, it said.

In Europe the full year results were “sluggish” reflecting what it said was the “fragile state of consumer confidence and intensely competitive markets”

However, it still reported positive growth for the year with the UK and France continuing to “perform well” despite being dragged down by the impact of higher commodity costs. 

Unilever ended the year on a high, beating most forecasts with underlying sales growth in Q4 of 7.8%, with volume growth of 4.8% and price growth of 2.9%.

Ice cream brand Magnum, along with Sunsilk shampoo brand, were held up as star perfromers in 2012, both becoming €1bn brands - making it a grand total of 14 across the company.

“These results have been achieved in tough economic conditions, with volatile commodity costs and in an intensely competitive environment,” said chief executive Paul Polman. “We continued to invest behind our brands; again increasing advertising and promotions spend.”

Shares were up 2.9% to 2522.53p this morning following the results announcement.

“This caps a strong year for Unilever and we see the trends as supportive of our ‘buy’ rating,” said Investec analyst Martin Deboo.