Unilever chief gloomy on prospects for Europe

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The Independent Online

The boss of Unilever, maker of Hellmann's mayonnaise, today warned that Europe's economies face at least a decade of bumping along the bottom, and raised fears over the recovery in the United States.

The comments of Paul Polman, chief executive of the food and consumer goods giant since 2008, are significant as Unilever delivers more than a quarter of its revenues in Europe and is a global bell-wether for consumer trends.

He told Bloomberg: "We are in for at least 10 years of slow, economic growth in Europe, and I don't see that changing. If you run a business like mine and don't assume that, you are fooling yourself. I hope for the benefit of Europe I am proven wrong, but even then we are in a better position by taking that as our starting point. The key thing is to see reality in the eye."

In the wake of the eurozone crisis, companies such as Unilever are ramping up their expansion in emerging markets and pushing lower-cost brands.

Mr Polman said declining consumer confidence in the US had got "people worried" and warned the recovery in America will be muted.