Unilever says sales hit by emerging markets slowdown

Anglo-Dutch food and cosmetics giant Unilever, seen as a bellwether for global consumer spending, said on Thursday that its third-quarter sales had been hit by weakened demand in emerging markets.

Turnover fell by 6.5 per cent to 12.5 billion euros ($17.3 billion) compared to the outcome in the same period last year.

This included a negative currency impact of 8.5 per cent, the company said in a statement.

Underlying sales were up 3.2 per cent, compared to a 5.9 per cent increase a year earlier.

Growth in emerging markets was up 5.9 per cent, compared to 12.1 in the third quarter of 2012.

Unilever warned earlier this month of weakening growth in emerging markets, accelerated by currency weakening.

Nevertheless, “emerging markets continue to be the main driver of our growth and, despite the current slowdown, they remain a significant growth opportunity which the company is well-placed to capitalise on,” CEO Paul Polman was quoted as saying.

Emerging markets contribute to more than half of Unilever’s sales, as the owner of Dove soaps and other common household brands shifted its attention away from crisis-hit developed markets.

Unilever, founded in 1930, employs about 173,000 people around the world.