LONDON — Unilever said Thursday that third-quarter profits fell 35 percent to 1.12 billion euros, or $1.6 billion, versus the same period last year.

This story first appeared in the November 6, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

At constant exchange, they declined 33 percent. Earnings in the year-ago period were boosted by disposals.

Sales in the quarter slipped 2 percent to 10.2 billion euros, or $14.58 billion. At constant exchange, they increased 1 percent. Underlying sales growth, which is calculated using constant exchange rates and strips out the effects of acquisitions and disposals, rose 3.4 percent.

Dollar figures are converted at average exchange rates.

Unilever’s personal care division reported that, on a like-for-like basis, sales grew by 5.2 percent to 3.03 billion euros, or $4.33 billion. The acquisition of Sara Lee’s personal care brands, which was announced in September, will likely not be completed before the middle of next year, said Jim Lawrence, Unilever’s chief financial officer, during a conference call with financial analysts Thursday.

“This will strengthen our competitive positions, particularly in skin cleansing and deodorants, and especially in Western Europe, with brands such as Sanex, Radox and Duschdas, which are perfectly complementary to our own,” said Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive officer.

In the first nine months of this year, Unilever’s profits decreased 33 percent to 2.75 billion euros, or $3.76 billion, while sales dipped 1 percent to 30.16 billion euros, or $41.23 billion.

“We are pleased with our progress. Confidence is coming back,” said Polman, though he cautioned market conditions are still sluggish. “With the amount of deleveraging still to be done in the global economy and stimulus packages running out of steam, we still expect a long, protracted recovery and plan our business accordingly.”

Unilever decreased its product prices by about 1 percent in the third quarter. The company’s prices had increased by an average of 7.2 percent last year on the back of a rise in commodity costs. The company also has been flexing its marketing muscle and increased its advertising spend by 14 percent in the third quarter.

Polman reiterated his objective of restoring volume growth while protecting margins and cash flow for 2009. He also underscored Unilever’s drive to bring bigger innovations to market and to roll them out faster. He highlighted the launch of Dove Minimiser deodorant, for instance, which bowed in 37 markets in nine months.

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