Dove deodorant and Tresemme shampoo are cleaning up for consumer goods giant Unilever, helping it to beat investor expectations despite mayonnaise and Marmite’s decidedly sticky performance.
The dual London and Rotterdam-listed company reported pre-tax profits fell 14% to €3.6bn (£2.5bn) in the first half of this year, after last year’s results were boosted by the sale of Ragu pasta sauces. But sales rose 12% to €27bn (10% of which was down to that old favourite, currency swings), higher than markets had been expecting.
Unilever’s chief exec Paul Polman has been shifting its focus from food to faster growing shampoos and soaps, and sure enough the personal care division’s sales grew 3.3% on an underlying basis in the second quarter of this year. Its spreads and sauces, meanwhile, including Flora and Knorr soups, were flat as a pancake.
That didn’t stop investors giving it the thumbs up, sending shares more than 2% higher in mid-morning trading. But the FTSE 100 company was cautious rather than cawing triumphantly about what was a relatively decent set of results.
‘Consumer demand remains weak and in the markets in which we operate volumes are flat,’ it said gloomily. ‘Emerging markets continue to be subdued whilst in Europe and North America growth is negligible.’
Nothing like managing expectations, eh?