Unilever's third-quarter sales leap back to growth

LONDON (Reuters) – Unilever ULVR.LUNA.AS reported a stronger-than-expected return to sales growth in the third quarter on Thursday led by emerging markets where it generates the bulk of its revenue.

TRESemme products, a Unilever Plc brand are seen on a shelf at a store in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Siyabonga Sishi/Files

Underlying sales rose 4.4 percent, for the Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Tresemme shampoo. Analysts on average were expecting an increase of 1.3 percent, according to a company-supplied consensus.

Sales in emerging markets rose 5.3 percent, while developed markets rose 3.1 percent.

Turnover was 12.9 billion euros, versus analysts’ estimate of 12.7 billion euros ($15.05 billion).

Unilever’s sales had fallen UNA.AS 0.3% in the second quarter, its first drop in 16 years, hurt by steep declines in food eaten out of the home and the pandemic’s impact on emerging markets.

Unilever withdrew its annual sales growth target in April, due to uncertainty around the pandemic and said on Thursday it would still not be giving any short-term guidance.

Like its larger peer Nestle NESN.S, Unilever has been buying assets to get more exposure to fast-growing categories like vegan foods and premium beauty and moving out of slower categories like margarine and tea.

Nestle reported a strong acceleration in third-quarter sales and raised its outlook on Wednesday.

Unilever is planning to unify its dual-headed corporate structure into one London-based entity. The unification is expected to complete next month.

Its shares are up about 8 percent this year through Wednesday, while the FTSE 100 .FTSE has fallen 23%.

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