Unilever The only way is up
Global consumer products giant Unilever has reported a growth in sales volumes of just 0.1% for the fourth quarter of this FY we like to call 12, its slowest rise in a three-year period which, you may recall, began with the onset of a crippling global recession. Volume growth has been affected by a range of factors – notably, the horrible cost of edible oils, which rose 6.5% in the fourth quarter alone, but which, says le Grand Bleu, should dissipate sometime soon. Unilever has in recent years expressed its intention to grow sales by 50%; 2011 has thrown a hefty spanner in the works. And refreshingly for a business built on marketing, they are not downplaying their disappointment: “We cannot recollect a more challenging year as 2011,” according to CFO Jean-Marc Huet. Interestingly, though, what growth there has been has been underpinned by performance in Africa and Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Vietnam, and a little place some of us like to call Mzansi.
Comment: Tough times, sure. But a heck of a business, with its focus in the right place.