Strong third-quarter performance shows resilience and agility
Today, Unilever announced its results for the third quarter of 2020. The strong performance – with underlying sales up 4.4% – reflects the resilience of our portfolio and our agility in responding to changing consumer and channel dynamics.
- Underlying sales growth of 4.4%, with 3.9% volume and 0.5% price
- Emerging markets underlying sales growth 5.3% and developed markets 3.1%
- Turnover decreased 2.4%, with a negative impact from currency of 7.7%
- Quarterly shareholder dividend maintained at €0.4104 per share
Commenting on the results, CEO Alan Jope says: “We have delivered a strong performance this quarter. Volume-led growth shows the resilience of our portfolio and our agility in responding to rapidly changing dynamics across consumer segments, geographies and channels.
“We continue to progress our strategic change agenda. Our proposals to simplify Unilever’s dual-headed legal structure have received strong support from both NV and PLC shareholders, and we have set out our Clean Future strategy in Home Care (Opens in a new window), to eliminate fossil fuel derived carbon from our cleaning products by 2030.
“The environment we are operating in will remain unpredictable in the near term, so we will continue to maintain the speed and agility of our response. Our focus remains volume-led competitive growth, delivering absolute profit and free cash flow.”
Covid-19 continues to influence consumer behaviours and channel dynamics in our markets. In North America, market growth continued to be driven by elevated demand for foods consumed at home. European markets saw a mixed picture on growth and a challenging pricing environment. In China, growth improved slightly compared to the second quarter. After a strict lock-down earlier in the year, India saw a pick-up in economic activity, even though cases of Covid-19 continued to increase. In Indonesia and Latin America markets contracted in the third quarter.
Unilever overall performance
We continued to respond with agility to the changing consumer and channel dynamics that have come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on driving execution against the five growth fundamentals we set out earlier this year.
Underlying sales growth accelerated compared to the second quarter. Elevated levels of growth for hand and home hygiene products continued, as well as for food consumed at home. Our food service and out of home ice cream businesses continued to decline, however at lower levels compared to the second quarter. Performance also improved in our other categories, with declines lessening in deodorants and skin care, while laundry and hair returned to growth. Online channels continued to grow, and our e-commerce business grew 76%.
Emerging markets grew 5.3%, as China’s recovery continued, and India and Brazil returned to growth. Developed markets grew 3.1%, led by ongoing strength in North America. In Europe, volumes grew despite a negative impact from out of home ice cream and food service, although this was more than offset by increased pressure on price, driven by a step up in promotional intensity.
Turnover decreased 2.4%. There was a positive impact of 1.3% from acquisitions net of disposals and a negative impact of 7.7% from currency.
Beauty & Personal Care
Beauty & Personal Care underlying sales grew 3.8%, with 3.5% from volume and 0.4% from price.
Demand for hand hygiene products remained high, albeit slightly below levels seen in the second quarter, and skin cleansing delivered underlying sales growth of 19.9%. Growth was supported by innovations including Dove’s entry into the antibacterial segment, and the extension of Lifebuoy into new formats and channels across several European markets.
Skin care declined high-single digit and deodorants declined low-single digit. Both categories were negatively impacted by restricted living conditions, although improved compared to the second quarter as many countries eased lockdowns. Hair grew overall, as a decline in styling was offset by growth in wash and care products.
Our Prestige business grew as the health and beauty channel reopened, although footfall remained subdued.
Home Care underlying sales grew 6.7%, with 8.5% from volume and negative pricing of -1.6%.
Consumer demand for household cleaners to combat the spread of Covid-19 continued. Our home and hygiene brands delivered high-teens underlying sales growth, with germ-killing and antibacterial benefits particularly sought after. We launched Domestos in China, as well as extending the brand to bleach-based spray and wipe formats.
Fabric solutions grew low-single digit, although price declined as we passed on reduced commodity costs particularly in European and South East Asian markets. In Latin America, our six-times concentrated Omo laundry liquid, designed to be diluted at home, was a growth driver. Fabric sensations grew low-single digit, and we launched new Comfort fragrance boosters in China, dual-colour beads with luxury-inspired fragrances.
Foods & Refreshment
Foods & Refreshment underlying sales grew 3.7%, with 1.8% from volume and 1.8% from price.
Our retail foods business grew double digit and tea saw mid-single digit growth as in-home eating occasions continued at elevated levels. Hellmann’s grew mid-teens, with Hellmann’s Vegan now available in 30 markets.
Sales of ice cream grew, driven by both volume and price. Mid-teens growth of in-home ice cream, led by brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum, more than offset the decline in out of home ice cream sales.
The food service channel remained fully or partially closed in many markets and food service sales declined by over 20%, however trends continue to improve with China now returning to growth.
We have made good progress in integrating the Horlicks business and we continue the work to implement the separation of our tea businesses.
Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.
This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘will’, ‘aim’, ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘looks’, ‘believes’, ‘vision’, or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the ‘Group’). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.
Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever’s global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever’s ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever’s investment choices in its portfolio management; the effect of climate change on Unilever’s business; Unilever’s ability to find sustainable solutions to its plastic packaging; significant changes or deterioration in customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain and distribution; increases or volatility in the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic, social and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. A number of these risks have increased as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
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Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2020.