Emerging market sales lift Unilever shares to new high

Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:13am EST
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By Rosalba O'Brien

LONDON (Reuters) - Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever Plc/NV's (ULVR.L: Quote) share price hit an all-time high on Wednesday as growth beat expectations, propelled by strong sales of its haircare products and soaps in emerging markets.

The company (UNc.AS: Quote) is beating its rivals and a dull economic backdrop by focusing its marketing on the personal and home care sectors, which are skewed more to high-growth regions like Latin America and Asia and grew around 10 percent in 2012.

"We're making much clearer choices - allocating resources, and concentrating where we see the most potential," Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Huet told reporters after on a call with reporter journalists on Wednesday.

"It could be the launch of Tresemme (hair care products) in Brazil, Indonesia, India. It could be the launch of this product in the U.S., Magnum (ice cream) in the Philippines, Bertolli Gold (olive oil spread) in the Nordics, the UK - the list continues."

Dove Damage Therapy haircare and Rexona Maximum Protection deodorant had been stand-out successes in 2012, the company said, while it is promoting its new Axe/Lynx Apollo deodorant with a global competition offering a trip into space.

Unilever shares were up 3 percent at 2,527 pence at 1254 GMT, a record high for the company, born 83 years ago out of the merger of Sunlight Soap and foods maker Lever Brothers and Dutch group Margarine Unie.

Now it is the spreads business - Flora margarine, and others - which is more exposed to sluggish developed markets and the biggest drag on the company's growth, with the foods business growing a comparatively weak 1.8 percent last year.

"In spreads we're focused on recovering the volumes. We've taken some pretty serious price actions," said Huet.   Continued...

A worker scans barcodes by a chiller cabinet of Flora margarine at a Sainsbury's supermarket in London February 6, 2008. Flora is a brand owned by consumer products company Unilever. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor