Economy

New Unilever CEO tripped by emerging market glitch

New Unilever CEO tripped by emerging market glitch

Consumer goods giant Unilever has warned of a "challenging" year ahead after falling below sales expectations in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The London-based manufacturer, which is trying to move on from 2018's rejected plan to move its headquarters from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands due to concerns over uncertainty surrounding Brexit, had stated that full-year sales would be at the bottom end of its 3 to 5 percent forecast range.

Unilever reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter sales on Thursday, hurt by inflation in Argentina and flat volume growth in developed markets, in its first set of results since new Chief Executive Alan Jope took charge. Former CEO Paul Polman was pushing for Unilever's headquarters to be moved to Amsterdam from London in light of Brexit.

Jope discussed accelerating future sales growth he said I am, "Looking forward, accelerating growth will be our number one priority".

Meanwhile, Unilever's new boss started his tenure on a downbeat tone, saying he expects the new year to remain tough and that sales growth will come at the lower end of the firm's target.

The company also sees continued increase in underlying operating margin and another year of strong free cash flow, and said it remained on track for its 2020 goals.

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Unilever reported net profit of 9.8 billion euros ($11.2 billion) for 2018, up 51.2 percent, but a 5.1 percent decrease in turnover to 51 billion euros.

Polman then quit after almost a decade in the job at the end of November previous year and Jope took the reins on 1 Jan, 2019.

The company's underlying sales in North America edged up 0.9 percent as strong sales of deodorants, soaps and home care products were offset by competition in the market for tea and dressings.

Unilever has hired extra warehouses to stockpile Magnum ice creams and deodorants on both sides of the Channel amid growing fears a no-deal Brexit will disrupt the Anglo-Dutch company's supply chain.

The underlying operating margin increased 90 basis points to 18.4%, boosted by the group's cost savings programme. It was the same in Europe, but the group's sales rose 0.8 percent in the region.


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