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Ray of hope for Unilever as profits hit

CONSUMER goods giant Unilever yesterday provided a ray of hope that consumer confidence may be creeping back as it returned to growth in the second quarter of this year.<br /><br />The group behind brands ranging from Ben &amp; Jerry&rsquo;s ice cream to Hellman&rsquo;s Mayonnaise and Dove soap said sales volumes fell in most regions around the world during the first three months of the year, before bouncing back in April, May and June.<br /><br />For the three months ended 30 June the group reported a 4.1 per cent rise in underlying sales, ahead of consensus forecasts of 3.7 per cent, while volumes lifted by two per cent.<br /><br />Unilever, said that its home-care category enjoyed the strongest first-half underlying sales growth, up 9.9 per cent buoyed by the launch of its &ldquo;Dirt is Good&rdquo; advertising campaign for Surf washing detergent. <br /><br />The company reported a 31 per cent drop in pre-tax profits to &euro;1,636m, for the six months to 30 June after the group was hurt by a dismal first quarter. <br /><br />Chief executive Paul Polman said: &ldquo;'While conditions remain difficult in many markets, I am encouraged by the return to volume growth across all regions and the majority of countries and categories. More of our brands are improving share again due to strong innovation and better execution.&rdquo;