October 18, 2018 / 6:37 AM / a month ago

Unilever third-quarter sales growth picks up with prices

LONDON (Reuters) - Unilever, which dropped plans to move to the Netherlands this month after British investors rebelled, reported a pick-up in third-quarter sales on Thursday, as it was able to pass on higher commodity costs to consumers.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Unilever is seen at the headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

The Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream did not give an update on its thinking about simplifying its dual-headed structure beyond saying it would take time to fully digest shareholder feedback after the backlash against the Netherlands move.

Unilever said underlying sales rose 3.8 percent in the third quarter.

The company decided to exclude pricing growth in Argentina, due to high inflation there. Including Argentina, sales growth would have been 4.5 percent, it said.

On that basis, analysts on average were expecting 4.3 percent sales growth, according to a consensus supplied by the company.

“A solid set of results,” RBC Capital Markets analyst James Edwardes Jones said. “After the drama around the (lack of) unification of the share classes Unilever will, we imagine, be pleased with these unexciting Q3 results.”

Unilever stood by its outlook, saying it still expects underlying sales growth in the 3 to 5 percent range, an improvement in underlying operating margin and strong cash flow. It said it remained on track for its 2020 goals.

On a later conference call with analysts, Unilever said it expects 2018 sales growth at the bottom end of the 3-5 percent range, but possibly a little higher.

Unilever’s UK-listed shares were down 1.9 percent in early trade.

Also on Thursday, Nestle confirmed its guidance as third quarter growth ticked up.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Adrian Croft

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