Unilever bullish that sales will beat targets

The consumer goods giant Unilever has revealed it expects to deliver improved underlying revenues this year, as it posted buoyant third-quarter sales and profits.

Unilever, the maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Marmite, saw pre-tax profits rise 83 per cent to €2.5bn (£2bn), boosted by disposals, in the last quarter. Its underlying sales jumped 8.3 per cent.

Patrick Cescau, Unilever's chief executive, said: "This year we now expect to deliver underlying sales growth well in excess of our long-term target of 3 to 5 per cent, together with an underlying improvement in operating margin for the year."

Its total sales rose by 2 per cent to €10.4bn. In Europe, Unilever posted underlying sales growth of 2.5 per cent in the third quarter, but price contributed more than 4 per cent with volumes lower by about 2 per cent. It said volumes were down because of slowing growth in European markets.

Unilever grew sales by 4 per cent in the US in the third quarter, adjusting for the effect of the IT systems implementation last year. The company continued to grow revenues in China and has started to introduce price increases there for the first time this year. The Investec analyst Martin Deboo said: "We are yet to see any of the anticipated weakness in developing and emerging markets, which is positive for Unilever."