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Half-year results show consistent growth led by emerging markets

Today, Unilever announced its results for the first half of 2019, which show underlying sales growth of 3.3%, led by our emerging market business which grew 6.2%.

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  • Underlying sales grew 3.3% with volume 1.2% and price 2.1%
  • Emerging markets underlying sales growth 6.2% with volume 2.5% and price 3.6%
  • Turnover decreased 0.9% driven by the sale of our spreads business, partially offset by a 1.1% currency benefit
  • Underlying operating margin increased 50bps with 30bps from gross margin
  • Operating margin increased by 40bps
  • Underlying earnings per share increased 5.0%, with constant EPS up 3.0%

Commenting on the results, CEO Alan Jope says: “We have delivered consistent growth within our guided range for 2019, led by our emerging markets. Accelerating growth remains our top priority and we continue to evolve our portfolio and seek out fast growth channel and geographical opportunities, as well as address those performance hotspots where growth is falling short of our aspirations.

“For the full year, we continue to expect underlying sales growth to be in the lower half of our multi-year 3-5% range, an improvement in underlying operating margin that keeps us on track for the 2020 target and another year of strong free cash flow. Our sustainable business model and portfolio of purpose-led brands are key to delivering superior long-term financial performance.”

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Our markets

Growth in our markets was mixed. Market growth in Europe and North America was held back by the impact of weather on ice cream sales. In the emerging markets we continued to see good momentum particularly in China and South East Asia. India saw strong market growth, though it moderated, as expected. Argentina remains hyperinflationary and high levels of pricing continue to weigh on consumer demand.

Unilever overall performance

Underlying sales grew 3.3% with 1.2% from volume and 2.1% from price. Emerging markets grew 6.2%, led by Asia/AMET/RUB, which saw broad-based geographic growth, whilst developed markets were weaker.

In the second quarter, we estimate the 2018 truckers’ strike in Brazil increased USG by 100bps. Second quarter growth was suppressed by around 50bps due to weak ice cream performance; a result of poorer weather, particularly in Europe following two years of very strong summers. 80bps of Argentina price growth in the quarter was excluded from USG due to hyperinflationary status.

Turnover in the first half decreased 0.9% driven by the sale of the spreads business, partially offset by a currency benefit of 1.1%.

Underlying operating margin improved by 50bps. Gross margin was up 30bps, helped by efficiencies from our 5S programme. Overheads had an adverse impact on underlying operating margin of 10bps. Our change programmes have helped to address stranded costs following the disposal of spreads and we continue to invest in the ongoing digital transformation of our business. Brand and marketing investment decreased compared to the prior year, as we continued to deliver zero-based budgeting savings ahead of target, with an increased focus on digital spend. More than two thirds of savings have been reinvested, largely behind innovations and new brand launches.

Beauty & Personal Care

Underlying sales in our Beauty & Personal Care division grew 3.3%.

Deodorants performed well, supported by our Rexona Clinical and Dove Zero aluminium ranges, alongside the extension of Love, Beauty & Planet. New formats continued to drive sales in skin cleansing, including the incremental launch of Dove bath bombs as well as Dove foaming handwash. Good performance in skin care was supported by on-trend innovations including Pond’s InstaBright Glow cream. Hair care saw only modest growth for the first half, with a challenging second quarter particularly in the US. Oral care returned to growth in the second quarter, helped by innovations such as Closeup natural whitening toothpaste and Signal White Now. Our prestige brands, including Dermalogica, Hourglass and REN, saw double digit growth overall, and we announced the acquisitions of Garancia and Tatcha, which are not yet included in USG.

Underlying operating margin in Beauty & Personal Care increased by 100bps, driven by efficiency programmes in brand and marketing investment.

Home Care

Underlying sales in our Home Care division grew 7.4%.

Fabric solutions performed strongly, benefiting from premiumisation and the execution of our strategy to move consumers into products with additional consumer benefits, including Omo Perfect Wash in Brazil. China saw good performance from the relaunch of Omo while in India Surf excel continued to grow double digit. Seventh Generation continues to be rolled out in Europe and North Asia, building on the naturals trend. Home and hygiene grew well, supported by double digit growth from Sunlight, and we launched innovations such as the Cif Cleaner Choices range with natural cleaning ingredients. In Indonesia we used our Home Care brands to run the mosque cleaning programme during Ramadan, an example of purpose-led growth. Good growth in fabric sensations was supported by the launch of a redesigned Comfort core range, focusing on clothes care, as well as a natural variants range. The life essentials category was flat.

Underlying operating margin in Home Care increased by 120bps, with improvements in gross margin, as well as efficiencies in brand and marketing investment and overheads.

Foods & Refreshment

Underlying sales in our Food & Refreshment division grew 1.3%.

In tea, sales declined with volumes impacted by weak consumer demand in developed markets. This was partially offset by black tea in emerging markets and our fruit, herbal and green tea ranges, including Pukka’s premium herbal offering. Sales in dressings were flat with volumes slightly down as competitive intensity remained high. Despite poorer weather in the second quarter compared to the previous two years, ice cream grew slightly over the half. We saw good ice cream performance in Asia/AMET/RUB and from innovations such as Magnum White Chocolate and Cookies. Savoury performance was helped by the launch of new snack pot variants meeting the trend towards convenience. The introduction of Hellmann’s Burger and Spicy Dipping sauces continue to broaden the brand beyond core mayonnaise, and Sir Kensington’s performed well.

Underlying operating margin in Foods & Refreshment decreased by 40bps, as a result of an adverse impact on overheads related to the disposal of our spreads business.

Safe Harbour

Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including 'forward-looking statements' within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as 'will', 'aim', 'expects', 'anticipates', 'intends', 'looks', 'believes', 'vision', or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the 'Group'). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.

Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever's global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever's ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever's investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; the effect of climate change on Unilever's business; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group's filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Annual Report on Form 20-F 2018 and the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2018.