Unilever strongly beats first quarter sales forecast

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In a bid to drum up $3 billion in sales over the next 10 years, the company is expanding distribution of its products in major cities, including in Sir Kensington's hometown of NY.

Underlying sales exclude acquisitions, divestments and currency fluctuations.

Unilver, the FTSE-listed Dutch owner of household brands such as Marmite, Hellman's and Cup-a-Soup, has reported an increase in turnover and sales.

Underlying sales rose 2.9 per cent to €13.3 billion in the first quarter, ahead of the City's €13.2 billion forecast, as sales in its personal care, home care and refreshments businesses increased. Unilever said it's on track for 2017 underlying sales growth of 3% to 5% and sees an improvement in underlying operating margin of at least 80 basis points.

That offset a small dip in the volume of goods sold. That throws up the usual suspects in big-money deals, but also some of the more established players in the British and European spreads category.

Unilever's sales growth of 2.9% exceeded analyst predictions of 1.9% as the Hellmann's mayonnaise provider issued its first results announcement since rebuffing a takeover approach from Kraft Heinz Co. For its full fiscal year, Unilever expects an autonomous turnover growth between 3 and 5 %.

CEO of Unilever Paul Polman said the overall report "reflects our continued investment in both innovations and brand support, and reconfirms the strength of our long-term sustainable compounding growth model".

Unilever also predicted improving profit margins for the rest of the year. Compared with Unilever, Nestle has much more exposure to the shrinking North American packaged food market, where a late Easter and one less trading day in the quarter compounded weakness due to changing consumer tastes and intense competition. The US company, which turns over less than half the amount that Unilever does, wanted to expand its presence in Europe but was so firmly rebuked that it "amicably agreed" to withdraw all interest in the purchase.

In the quarter, the company noted that market conditions remained challenging. It purchased a couple premium ice cream brands, including Talenti Gelato, and invested in its Ben & Jerry's and Hellmann's brands.

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