Unilever profit hits 5.6b euros in ‘volatile’ year

by AFP

LONDON – Consumer goods group Unilever on Thursday said its net profit dipped to 5.6 billion euros last year as the coronavirus pandemic boosted sales of sanitizers but tarnished beauty products.

Profit after tax, equivalent to $6.7 billion, fell by 0.8 percent compared with the level in 2019, the company said in an earnings statement.

“In a volatile and unpredictable year, we have demonstrated Unilever’s resilience and agility through the Covid-19 pandemic,” said chief executive Alan Jope.

However the maker of brands including Magnum ice-cream, Cif surface cleaner and Dove soap, said sales of beauty products were hit by the coronavirus lockdowns.

“The operating environment in our markets has been volatile since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020,” the statement said. 

“As people stayed at home and had fewer opportunities to socialise, they spent less time on personal grooming which impacted sales in much of the beauty and personal care business, except for hygiene products where demand was high.”

Unilever said sales growth was driven by hand and home hygiene products, laundry and in-home food and refreshments.

Demand for ice-cream at outdoor venues declined meanwhile.

“Despite a pandemic impacting its businesses around the world, Unilever has continued moving forwards,” noted Steve Clayton, a fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown. 

“Ongoing restructuring to position the group further toward digital commerce will hold back earnings in the near term, perhaps explaining the market’s lack of enthusiasm for the numbers this morning,” he added.

Unilever had a notable  2020 also as it became a wholly British company.

At the end of November, Unilever completed the historic merger of its Dutch and British corporate entities.

Looking forward, “as consumers change the ways in which they shop, Unilever must accelerate their e-commerce and digital offerings, which have been somewhat limited in past, as a means to engage consumers and drive growth”, advised Amy Rollinson, analyst at Euromonitor International.