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Unilever Braces for Tougher Market Conditions

The Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant posted fourth-quarter 2015 revenues up 4.9 percent.

PARIS — Unilever reported that fourth-quarter sales last year advanced 4.9 percent, and said it is bracing itself for tougher market conditions and high volatility in 2016.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant, parent of brands ranging from Dove soap and Pond’s skin cream to Hellmann’s mayonnaise, posted revenues of 12.9 billion euros, or $14.13 billion, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

In the full year, company net profit declined 5 percent to 5.3 billion euros, or $5.88 billion, on sales that gained 10 percent to 53.3 billion euros, or $59.18 billion. Currencies had a positive impact of 5.9 percent, and underlying sales growth in emerging markets was 7.1 percent.

In 2015, personal-care sales were up 4.1 percent to 5.1 billion euros, or $5.66 billion, boosted by innovations that grew the core of Unilever brands and extended them into more premium segments. Well-received launches included the Dove Advanced Hair Series roll-out, Lux Luminique in Japan and the dry spray deodorant in North America.

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“We are starting to see the results from sharpened category strategies that guide increased investment in our brands, our infrastructure and our people as well as extensions into attractive new markets like prestige personal care,” stated Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive officer.

“We are preparing ourselves for tougher market conditions and high volatility in 2016, as world events in recent weeks have highlighted,” he continued. “Therefore it is vital that we drive agility and cost discipline across our business. We are further strengthening our innovation funnel while shortening innovation cycle times, stepping up our digital capabilities and rolling out a global zero-based budgeting program.

“Our priorities continue to be volume-driven growth ahead of our markets, steady improvement in core operating margin and strong cash flow,” explained the executive.