Anglo-Dutch food and consumer products giant Unilever has raised its 2002 profits forecast again as it reported a 17% rise in third-quarter net profit.

The company now expects its 2002 core earnings per share percentage growth to be in the high teens rather than the mid teens as was previously forecast.

Unilever's net profit before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill and intangibles climbed 17% to €1.2bn (US$1.18bn) in the third quarter, beating analysts' expectations.

The company, whose products include Knorr soup, Magnum ice-cream and Dove soap, said that sales of its top 400 brands grew 5.4% in the third quarter, exceeding Unilever's previous forecasts.