Unilever today (20 January) reported sales that came in below expectations. The company's top line has been hit by macroeconomic factors, particularly in emerging markets, as well as ongoing category decline in margarine. However, a focus on productivity enabled the group to accelerate margin expansion during a period of higher input costs for raw materials such as dairy and chocolate. The City's response has been as mixed as Unilever's performance.
Unilever's move to internally spin off its spreads unit was seen by many company and industry watchers as a pre-cursor to a sale. However, an imminent sale in unlikely, with the business under-pressure and a paucity of suitors standing buy.
Unilever is establishing a stand-alone unit for its spreads brands, prompting fresh speculation that the group could be preparing for a sale of the business. At the same time, this week's acquisition of Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto would suggest that the Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant is prepared to invest in growth areas in food. Could these changes spell further portfolio adjustments? Katy Askew reports.