Anglo-Dutch food and consumer products giant Unilever has reported a 13% rise in 2002 net profit.

The group reported net profit before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill and intangibles (BEIA) for 2002 of €4.0bn (US$4.3bn), compared with analysts’ forecasts of €3.9-4.3bn.

The company also said it was sticking to its “Path to Growth” programme targets for 2003 and that it was confident the company would reach the five-year programme’s goals by the time the programme comes to an end in December 2004, reported Reuters.

Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald said the group was on track to meet targets of sales growth of 5-6% from its top 400 brands, low double-digit earnings growth and operating margins above 16% by 2004.

The group said underlying 2002 earnings per share grew 21% at constant exchange rates, and sales of its top 400 brands climbed 5.4%, while the underlying 2002 operating margin rose to 14.9% from 13.9% in 2001.

Sales of its top brands, which include Dove Soap, Magnum ice cream and Skippy peanut butter, grew 5.4%, compared to growth of 5.3% in 2001 and 3.8% in 2000.