Food and consumer goods giant Unilever has booked a 13% increase in first-half profits, driven by margin improvements.

The company said today (25 July) net profit rose to EUR2.68bn from EUR2.37bn in the first half of 2012. Operating profit was up 14% at EUR3.92bn. Gains were driven by improved margins, with a 140 basis point improvement in gross margins and a 40 basis point improvement in core operating margins.

Underlying sales rose 5%, with 10.3% growth in emerging markets. However, total sales were up just 0.4% to EUR25.5bn, dragged down by currency headwinds and disposals, including the Skippy peanut butter brand. Unilever’s household and personal care businesses led revenue gains, with food sales up just 0.2% and sales from refreshments, which includes ice cream and tea, up 2.1% in the period.

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