Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has said sales of its leading brands were flat in the second quarter, but the company kept its previous target for 2004 earnings per share.

The company’s 0.2% slide in second-quarter sales of its top 400 brands, which include Hellmann’s, Knorr and Bertolli, follow an increase of just 1.3% in the first quarter.

Operating profit before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill and intangible assets fell 2% to €1.61bn (US$1.93bn) in the second quarter, failing to meet analysts’ average forecast of €1.68bn, reported Reuters.

Unilever said it is sticking to its forecast of low double-digit percentage growth in earnings per share for the full year.

“We gave a fully funded programme for the second half and maintain our outlook for full year earnings,” the company was quoted by Reuters as saying.