LONDON — Fourth-quarter profits at Unilever, manufacturer of brands including Dove, Vaseline and Tigi, rose 15 percent to 1.04 billion euros, or $1.41 billion, in the fourth quarter, despite declining consumer confidence in many markets and rising raw material costs.
Revenues increased 12 percent to 10.82 billion euros, or $14.72 billion, in the three months to December 31, fueled by growth in emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico. Dollar figures have been calculated at average exchange rates for the periods in question.
“We gained volume share in all regions, driven by stronger innovations, significant increases in marketing investment and the extension of our brands into new territories,” said Paul Polman, chief executive officer of the global food-to-detergents group. “At the same time, we delivered margin improvement through a strong savings program…and volume efficiencies.”
In the 2010 fiscal year, Unilever’s profits rose 26.0 percent to 4.60 billion euros, or $6.11 billion, while turnover rose 11.1 percent to 44.26 billion euros, or $58.77 billion.
Michael Polk, president of global foods, home and personal care, said during a conference call later on Thursday that 53 percent of Unilever’s turnover is generated by developing and emerging markets. “In those markets, about 75 percent of our portfolio is in home or personal care categories,” said Polk.
He also said that an increase in innovation at the company impacted its fourth-quarter results. “Behind the improved top-line performance is a step change we’ve made to our innovation program, and we now see about 33 percent of our turnover coming from products launched in the last two years,” said Polk.
During the call, he also addressed rising commodity prices — and put the issue in perspective. “The volatility that happened in concert with the 2008 commodity spike was far broader and radical than what we’re dealing with this time,” said Polk. “Today you begin to see developed economies start to pick up despite high unemployment and the other issues that are out there.”