Procter and Gamble up 15%

Procter and Gamble, the United States soap powder manufacturer and Unilever's largest competitor, reported a 15 per cent increase in post-tax earnings in its second quarter to the end of December.

The higher profits came from a combination of cost control and increases in volume. Nevertheless, the company said strong price competition around the world held back turnover.

After-tax earnings for the first half rose 16.5 per cent to $1.5bn. Turnover for the first half rose to $16.6bn, up 8 per cent from $15.3bn.

Sales volume in the US grew 6 per cent, while earnings grew 7 per cent. After-tax earnings from P&G's overseas operations grew 20 per cent.

The chairman and chief executive, Edwin Artzt, said: "We continue to see sales growth in virtually all business sectors and geographic regions. Earnings continue to be positively influenced by worldwide cost control."

However, worldwide price competition held back the value of sales by 7 per cent.

The company said it was not adversely affected by the financial crisis in Mexico. But it expects the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, to cost it $50m. The company has five plants in Japan, including one in the Kobe area.

Earnings per share for the quarter are $1.06, up from $0.92 for the same period last year.