"We are delighted to have ended the year so strongly on both the top and bottom lines," said Ian Cook, president and CEO, Colgate-Palmolive. "The excellent results were truly across the board with every operating division increasing both sales and operating profit in the quarter. Pleasingly, the 90 basis point improvement in gross profit margin worldwide and other savings programs allowed for strong levels of advertising investment behind our global brands while still generating higher than expected operating profit, net profit and earnings per share for the quarter.
As reported, North American sales and unit volume grew 6.5% and 4.5%, respectively, in the fourth quarter. Excluding the divestiture of the Canadian household bleach business, sales and unit volume grew 7.5% and 5.5%, respectively. Pricing increased 0.5% and foreign exchange added 1.5%. North American operating profit increased 39% during the quarter to an all-time record level, reflecting the benefits from restructuring and other cost saving programs.
Successful new products contributing to growth in the U.S. in other categories include Irish Spring body wash for men, Softsoap brand Nutra-Oil moisturizing body wash and Mennen Speed Stick 24/7 deodorant. Fabuloso liquid cleaner, Suavitel fabric conditioner and Irish Spring bar soap each achieved record high market shares for the year in the U.S.
Colgate continues to build its strong leadership in oral care throughout Latin America with its regional toothpaste market share at a record high year to date driven by market share gains in nearly every country. Strong sales of premium priced offerings such as Colgate Total Professional Clean, Colgate Sensitive and Colgate Max White toothpastes drove share gains throughout the region. In Mexico, for example, Colgate's toothpaste market share reached a record high at 83.9% year to date, up 230 basis points versus year ago. Colgate's leading share of the manual toothbrush market for the region is at a record high year to date at 36.9%, up 270 basis points versus year ago. Strong sales of Colgate 360 degree and Colgate 360 degree Sensitive manual toothbrushes throughout the region contributed to this success.
Colgate increased its oral care leadership in Europe/South Pacific with its regional toothpaste market share reaching a record high for the year. These toothpaste share gains were led by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania and Australia. Successful premium products driving these share gains include Colgate Total and Colgate Max Fresh toothpastes. Gaba's toothpaste market share also grew in many markets across the region, in both the food and pharmacy channels. In the manual toothbrush category, strong sales of Colgate 360 degree, Colgate 360 degree Sensitive and Colgate Max Fresh toothbrushes strengthened Colgate's market leadership in this category for the region.
Recent premium innovations contributing to gains in other product categories include Colgate 360 degree Sonic Power battery toothbrush, Colgate Plax Whitening mouth rinse, Palmolive Pure Cashmere and Palmolive Aromatherapy Happyful shower gels, Palmolive Soft and Gentle Eden deodorant, and Ajax Professional bucket dilutable and Ajax Professional glass cleaners.
Greater Asia/Africa sales and unit volume increased 18.5% and 6.5%, respectively. The strong volume gains were led by India, Russia and the rest of the CIS countries, Malaysia, South Africa, the Gulf States and the Greater China region, where volume increased double-digit for the third consecutive quarter. For the division as a whole, pricing increased 3.0% and foreign exchange added 9.0%. Operating profit for the region increased 30% to an all- time record level, even after a sizable increase in advertising spending during the quarter.
Click here for complete numbers by region.