Unilever NV, the maker of consumer products such as Dove soaps, Lipton teas and Ben & Jerry's ice creams, Thursday reported third-quarter earnings rose 19 percent on sales growth, cost-cutting, and the weak euro, which more than offset higher raw materials costs.
Net profit was 1.25 billion euros ($1.75 billion), up from 1.05 billion euros. Sales rose 13.2 percent to 11.5 billion euros, with growth strongest in emerging markets. The company said stripping out the effects of the euro, profits were up 11 percent and sales were 3.1 percent higher.
The results "reflect solid progress, particularly given the combined headwinds of slow economic growth, weak consumer confidence in many markets and higher commodity costs," CEO Paul Polman said in a statement.
"Pricing was flat with increased prices in some categories offset by others where downward adjustments were needed to stay competitive."
Prices fell in all regions, which the company made up for with higher volumes. Margins fell in both the Americas and Asia, but grew in Europe and overall due to heavy cost-cutting in Europe. The company's spending on advertising was flat.
"Volume growth in North America was over 2 percent, a solid performance given the difficult market conditions. In the U.S., our performance in deodorants, hair, ice cream and frozen ready markets was particularly encouraging."
Unilever also makes Slim-Fast diet products, Axe and Rexona deodorants, Magnum ice cream, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Bertolli oils, Knorr soups, Surf laundry products and Cif cleaning products.
Unilever said it expects to close a euro1.3 billion purchase of Sara Lee's personal care products division, which is being examined closely by European regulators, in the fourth quarter. It has also agreed to buy Alberto Culver, the U.S. maker of Noxzema, TRESemme and V05, for $3.7 billion.
Together with Unilevers' other personal care brands — which include Vaseline, and Suave shampoos among others — the two buys would put Unilever past rival Procter & Gamble Co. as the biggest maker of personal care products.
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