With his focus on long-term sustainability, Unilever’s chief exec Paul Polman isn’t the sort of boss who keeps his eyed glued on the business’s day-to-day share price fluctuations. But if he has a cheeky peek today he will surely be pretty chuffed.
Shares in the FMCG giant, which makes Domestos bleach, Peperami snacks and Ben & Jerry's ice cream (and half of the other things in MT's kitchen and bathroom cupboards), are up around 4% to 3051p this morning thanks to better than expected sales growth. Turnover in the first three months of the year was up 12.3% to €12.8 billion (£9.2bn), despite difficulty in some emerging markets.
The boost was largely thanks to ‘favourable currency conditions’ (the weak euro), which gave the company a boost of around 10.6%, but underlying sales growth was still up 2.8%, and 5.4% in emerging markets. That’s a good improvement on last year, when sales were down 2.7%.
‘Despite high levels of currency and commodity volatility, we are now starting to see more tailwinds than headwinds in our markets, and expect our initiatives to deliver a further improvement in volume growth in the remainder of the year,’ said Polman. ‘We remain focussed on competitive, profitable, consistent and responsible growth.’
There’s no word on profits – Polman abolished quarterly reporting in a bid to attract more long-term investors (and, a cynic might say, to avoid reminding the City of Unilever's variable profitability). But these figures are likely to be favourable, given that much of the sales growth was driven by price.
Unilever hiked prices by 1.9% overall, and by 5.3% in The Americas, as it launched new premium Axe deodorants in the US. The picture in Europe was different – prices were down 1.9%, mirroring the falling price of groceries in supermarkets in Britain and across the continent.