Unilever’s fourth quarter and full-year results for 2011 reflected a robust performance despite the continuing tough economic environment. The company grew ahead of its markets, gained share overall and maintained a good balance of price and volume growth.
Turnover was €11.6 billion in the fourth quarter and €46.5 billion for the full-year. Underlying sales growth was 6.6% in the fourth quarter and 6.5% for the full-year, while underlying volume growth was 0.1% in the fourth quarter and 1.6% for the full-year.
Commenting on the company’s performance, CEO Paul Polman said, “In 2011 we have made significant progress in the transformation of Unilever to a sustainable growth company despite difficult markets and an unusual number of significant external challenges. Our overall performance was driven by our growth in emerging markets and the home care and personal care categories. We invested heavily in our brands and exit the year with positive momentum.”
Regionally, the company’s Asia-Africa CEE segment continued to grow ahead of the markets in the fourth quarter and achieved positive volume growth despite higher prices, challenging macroeconomic conditions in many countries and sustained high levels of competitive activity. Unilever saw strong double digit-growth in South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam with continuing robust growth from India, Turkey and China. However, Japan continued to decline after the earthquake in the first half, and Central and Eastern European growth, while better than the start of the year, remains muted.
For the Americas, North America delivered 2.1% underlying sales growth in 2011. This reflects both a good performance from personal care and the pricing action taken to recover input cost increases—particularly in some food products and bar soaps—which had an adverse impact on volumes. Latin America grew 10.8% in 2011 with strong growth from Argentina and Mexico. While growth in Brazil was lower, the company saw an improvement in the second half after completing the trade stocks reduction which impacted the first half.
In regard to Western Europe, the company we gained share and continued to invest in its brands despite depressed markets. Unilever’s six largest markets all delivered positive sales growth in the fourth quarter with notably good performances from France and Italy. Volumes were negatively impacted by the action to increase prices.