• Unilever's factory in Dubai, UAE.
    Unilever's factory in Dubai, UAE.

Unilever has posted an underlying sales growth for the full year 2019 of 2.9 per cent, slightly down on the previous year’s growth of 3.1 per cent.

The 2019 growth was led by Unilever’s emerging market business, which grew 5.3 per cent, and its Home Care division, which grew 6.1 per cent. According to Alan Jope, CEO, an economic slowdown in the fourth quarter meant growth was slightly below the guided range for the year.

“We are now stepping up execution against our fundamental drivers of growth. These are to: increase penetration by improving brand awareness and availability; implement a more impactful innovation programme; improve our performance in faster growing channels; drive purpose into all our brands; and fuel growth through cost savings.

“We are continuing to evaluate our portfolio and have initiated a strategic review of our global tea business,” he said.

As well as Home Care, Unilever’s major divisions all grew: Beauty and Personal Care at 2.6 per cent, and Food and Refreshment at 1.5 per cent. However, though the biggest tea business in the world, Unilever’s sales of traditional black tea are down due to changing consumer preferences.

According to Jope, 2020 underlying sales growth is expected to be in the lower half of the multi-year 3-5 per cent range and will be second-half weighted.

“While we expect an improvement from the fourth quarter of 2019 into the first half of 2020, first half underlying sales growth will be below three per cent. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak is unknown at this time.

“As we near the completion of our three-year strategic plan, we expect continued improvement in underlying operating margin and another year of strong free cash flow, remaining on track for our 2020 goals,” he said.

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