came a day after Unilever announced it was adding to its popular ice-cream
ranges, which include Magnum, by scooping up Romania’s leading ice-cream maker,
Betty Ice, for an undisclosed price.
Net profit leaped 16.9% on sales of 53.7 billion euros, up 1.9% year-on-year,
which chief executive Paul Polman said “demonstrates the progress we have
made in transforming Unilever into a more resilient and more agile
“We have delivered a good all-round performance with competitive growth,”
he said in a statement, adding the company had also made €2 billion in savings
during the year.
“This puts us well on track towards our savings target of 6 billion, and a
targeted underlying operating margin of 20% by 2020,” Polman said.
The Rotterdam-based Unilever, which employs some 169,000 people around the
world, owns more than 400 household brands including Dove beauty products,
Knorr soups, Lipton teas, Magnum ice cream and Marmite.
Since rejecting the bid by its US rival Kraft Heinz in February 2017, Unilever
has sought to prove to shareholders that it is better off on its own and has
vowed better profitability.
It bought up or took stakes in 11 companies in 2017, with a heavy focus on
organic and natural products including Mae Terra organic food in Brazil and
Pukka Herbs organic herbal tea in Britain.
“We are evolving the portfolio at an accelerated pace to ensure we have
the platforms in place for long-term growth,” Polman said.
Following the tensions triggered by Kraft Heinz’s unsolicited bid, Unilever
unveiled a €3.5 billion restructuring plan and announced the spin-off of its
margarine division, hoping to soothe investors concerns after rejecting the
proposed tie-up which would have valued the group at $143 billion.
Unilever said Thursday that after agreeing “to sell our global spreads
business … we expect to exit around the middle of 2018”.
Excluding spreads, sales reached €50.7 billion, an increase of 2.2% over the
previous 12 months. Sales were particularly strong in Asia increasing 5.9%,
driven particularly by increasing online sales in China, and strong demand in
India and Pakistan.
But the North American market was “weak throughout the year,” while
European markets “remained challenging with subdued volume growth and
continued price deflation in several countries”.
Unilever is listed in both London and on the Amsterdam AEX, a historic status
which the company is also reviewing. Polman said the investigation “of the
dual-headed legal structure has progressed well and we expect to conclude it