Profits plummet at Unilever

Net profits at Unilever fell 38.4 per cent to €6 billion ($6.6bn) in 2019 after the company experienced a slowdown in the fourth quarter that was particularly challenging in West Africa, India and the Middle East.

The drop in net profit was also attributed to the company’s €4.3bn prior-year gain from the disposal of its spreads business.

Unilever now plans to review its global tea portfolio – which comprises the PG Tips, Brooke Bond and Lipton brands – in order to concentrate on higher growth spaces. According to the company, sales of traditional black tea, the largest segment of the category, have been in decline in developed markets for several years due to changing consumer preferences.

“We are now stepping up execution against our fundamental drivers of growth,” said Unilever chief executive Alan Jope. “These are to: increase penetration by improving brand awareness and availability; implement a more impactful innovation programme; improve our performance in faster growing channels; drive purpose into all our brands; and fuel growth through cost savings.”

Jope added that “in 2020, our underlying sales growth is expected to be in the lower half of the multi-year 3-5 per cent range and will be second-half weighted. While we expect an improvement from the fourth quarter of 2019 into the first half of 2020, first half underlying sales growth will be below 3 per cent. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak is unknown at this time.”