Unilever first-quarter sales top expectations

Rival Nestle also reported better-than-expected first-quarter sales on Thursday.

Following its first quarter under fresh chief executive Alan Jope, Anglo-Dutch Unilever also stood by its 2020 target for an underlying operating margin of 20 percent, set by Jope’s predecessor Paul Polman from the wake of 2017’s rebuffed $143 billion takeover offer by Kraft Heinz.

Unilever’s underlying operating margin was 18.4 percent in 2018.

from the first quarter, Unilever’s underlying sales, stripping out acquisitions, disposals along with currency moves, rose 3.1 percent. Analysts on average were expecting a 2.8 percent rise, according to a company-supplied consensus forecast.

Growth was balanced, which has a 1.9 percent contribution via pricing, which is usually less than analysts expected, along with 1.2 percent via volume gains, which is usually more than expected.

Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly told Reuters which many of the cost increases were taken in emerging markets, where which is usually often easier to hold onto sales volume despite cost increases.

Turnover fell 1.6 percent to 12.4 billion euros, due to the disposal of the spreads business.