Unilever sales surge but no Cadbury bid

CONSUMER goods giant Unilever yesterday beat City forecasts with a 3.6 per cent rise in third-quarter underlying volume sales, and ruled out launching a bid for confectionary group Cadbury.<br /><br />News of a potential candidate ruling itself out of a bidding war will not help matters for Cadbury who may have been counting on a white knight bidder to derail Kraft&rsquo;s takeover offer.<br /><br />But the maker of Magnum, Ben &amp; Jerry&rsquo;s ice cream and Surf washing powder said all regions and categories showed growth while it was on track to restore volume growth for 2009, without hitting margins or cash flow.<br /><br />And the group added that it doesn&rsquo;t see anything to slow its underlying momentum. Unilever is currently undergoing a dramatic turnaround under chief executive Paul Polman.<br /><br />Polman, who took over in January having previously worked at larger rivals Procter &amp; Gamble and Nestle, has targeted reigniting volume growth after the group relied on price rises for all its sales increase in its first-quarter.<br /><br />The group said it had trimmed prices on some products by up to three per cent.<br /><br />Group turnover fell two per cent to &euro;10.2bn (&pound;9.1bn) in the quarter, with net profits falling 35 per cent to &euro;1.1bn.<br /><br />Evolution Securities analyst Warren Ackerman said: &ldquo;There is clear progress against their four pillars: brands &amp; innovation, winning with customers, cash &amp; costs and the new organisation. We expect consensus earnings to nudge up on better margins &amp; lower finance costs&rdquo;.