Times remain tough at consumer goods giant Unilever as sales growth remained at its slowest in five years.
Underlying sales at the owner of Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s mayonnaise remained unchanged from their third quarter, growing 2.1 per cent in the fourth quarter, below analyst expectations.
Overall, sales grew 2.9 per cent in 2014, pushing pre-tax profits up seven per cent to $7.6bn (£5bn). Turnover declined, however, down 2.7 per cent to $48.4bn (£32bn), or 4.6 per cent taking into account negative currency impact.
The outlook for 2015 isn't much better either. Chief executive Paul Polman said:
We do not plan on a significant improvement in market conditions in 2015. Against this background, we expect our full year performance to be similar to 2014 with the first quarter being softer but growth improving during the year. We remain focused on competitive, profitable, consistent and responsible growth."
Despite a challenging year for our industry with significant economic headwinds and weak markets we have delivered another year of competitive underlying sales growth and margin expansion. This consistency, now established over the last six years, has been achieved during a period of high volatility as we have built a more resilient company.
Shares in Unilever opened two per cent down.