Unilever's results disappoint as new CEO takes charge

Unilever's results disappoint as new CEO takes charge”

In the fourth quarter of 2018, sales dropped 5.3 percent to 12.15 billion euros ($13.9 billion).

The Anglo-Dutch group, which is working to move on from last year's botched plan to shift its main headquarters to the Netherlands, saw its shares fall almost 3 percent on Thursday as the sales miss overshadowed full-year earnings that were ahead of expectations.

It was the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant's first set of results since Alan Jope took over as chief executive on January 1.

Previous year the company abandoned plans to leave its United Kingdom headquarters and move its primary listing to the Netherlands following a backlash from shareholders.

"Let me state. upfront, that accelerating quality growth will be my number-one priority", Jope told analysts.

In terms of the group's individual divisions, its Beauty & Personal Care arm saw sales rise 3.1%, driven by a 2.5% volume gain, with its biggest brand, Dove, seeing "another year of broad-based growth".

Unilever said it expected sales growth in 2019 to be in the lower half of the forecast range, but that it remained on track to meet its 2020 goals of improving operating margins and converting net profit into free cash flow.

For the forecast to come up to the top half of the guidance, Jope said he would want to see a sustained turnaround in Latin America and continued improvement in Southeast Asia. This includes deodorants made in Britain and ice creams made in continental Europe, it said on Thursday.

Then-chief executive Paul Polman stepped down in the wake of the row and was replaced by Alan Jope.

Underlying operating margin for the year increased by 90 basis points, the company said, while underlying earnings per share were up 5.2%.

Unilever announced in a statement this morning that its underlying sales growth was 2.9 percent previous year. The underlying sales from Unilever's food and refreshment division, excluding spreads, grew 2.3% with 1.6% from volume.

For the full year, Unilever reported turnover of €49.6 billion ($57.05 billion), excluding its divested spreads business, with underlying sales adding 3.1 percent, in line with expectations.

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