Unilever hit by UK washing powder wars
Saturday 07 May 2005
Unilever admitted yesterday it had lost market share in the UK, casting doubt over this year's quest to regain momentum in Europe, its biggest market.
The Anglo-Dutch group behind brands such as Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise said underlying sales across Europe had fallen by 2 per cent during its first quarter, excluding the boost from five extra trading days. Its problems centred on the UK, where its arch rival Procter & Gamble has taken a big chunk out of its sales of laundry detergent.
But Unilever, which shook up its board after issuing a profits warning last autumn, offered hope that its fortunes had turned elsewhere by reporting its second consecutive quarter of group like-for-like sales growth. Its shares rose 3 per cent to 529p.
Patrick Cescau, who became the group's first chief executive in its 75-year history after it abolished its co-chairmanship structure in February, said he was "encouraged" but warned the backdrop would remain tough in Europe.
"We are making progress on the plans to improve top-line performance. The first stage was a step-up in market competitiveness," he said. "This year we expect market conditions to remain very challenging in Europe, and margins to continue to be under pressure from increased input costs."
Although the group said underlying sales rose 6 per cent during its first quarter, it admitted that on a true like-for-like basis its performance was less impressive. Five extra trading days and an early Easter added an extra 400 basis points to top-line growth, it said.
Analysts said there was a similar lack of visibility over its operating margin, which appeared to rise by 80 basis points to 15.3 per cent but actually fell after profits from disposals and lower restructuring costs were stripped out. Pre-tax profits for the quarter rose 9 per cent at current exchange rates to €1.28bn (£870m), while net profits jumped 24 per cent to €934m.
Since taking over as chief executive, M. Cescau has shaken up the group's management and operating boards. He has made more than 100 senior appointments and axed 15 per cent of the group's senior management. The company refused to confirm how many jobs had been affected.
In the US, it saw a modest pick-up in market growth for most of its products with the exception of the diet drinks business SlimFast, sales of which fell sharply during the quarter.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
iJobs Money & Business
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...