The FTSE 100 listed fast-selling consumer goods maker said its underlying sales rose by 4.0% in the final quarter of 2017, an improvement from growth of 3.0% in the first half and 2.6% in the third quarter, and above the company-supplied consensus forecasts of 3.7%.
The maker of Marmite spread, Knor soups, Dove soap and Ben & Jerry's ice cream - which spent most of last year reviewing its business after rebuffing a US$143bn takeover bid from Kraft Foods in February 2017 – saw full-year underlying sales growth, excluding its Spreads business which is being sold, of 3.5%.
The Anglo-Dutch firm’s full-year net profit increased by 16.9% to €6.5bn, with underlying earnings per share up 10.7% to €2.24.
Unilever’s underlying operating margin rose by 110 basis points reflecting “strong savings delivery”.
Good all-round performance
Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive officer said; “We have delivered a good all-round performance with competitive growth, including an innovation-led improvement in volumes in the fourth quarter, and substantially increased margin, earnings and cash flow.
“This puts us well on track to deliver towards the strategic objectives set out for 2020 and demonstrates the progress we have made in transforming Unilever into a more resilient and more agile business.”
He added: “Our priorities for 2018 are to grow volumes ahead of our markets, maintain strong delivery from our savings programmes and to complete the integration of Foods & Refreshment as well as the exit from spreads.
“We expect this will translate into another year of underlying sales growth in the 3%-5% range, and an improvement in underlying operating margin and cash flow, that keeps us on track for the 2020 targets."