Interactive Investor

ii view: Unilever battling hard in challenging conditions

14th February 2023 11:51

by Keith Bowman from interactive investor

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Shares for this consumer goods mammoth are up around 2% year-to-date, underperforming a near 6% gain for the FTSE 100 index. We assess prospects. 

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Full-year results to 31 December

  • Revenue up 14.5% to €60.1 billion (£53 billion)
  • Underlying or adjusted sales up 9%
  • Adjusted operating profit up 0.5% to €9.7 billion (£8.5 billion)
  • Dividend maintained at €0.4268 per share
  • Net debt down 7% year-over-year to €23.7 billion (£21 billion)

Guidance:

  • Expects 2023 underlying sales growth to be at least in the upper half of its multi-year range of 3-5%.

Chief executive Alan Jope said:Unilever delivered a year of strong top-line growth in challenging macroeconomic conditions. Growth was broad-based across each of our five Business Groups, led by strong performances from our billion+ Euro brands. Despite sharp rises in material costs, we have prioritised stepping up our brand and marketing investment. 

“We have made further progress in the transformation of Unilever and continued to deliver against our strategic priorities. Our new operating model is already unlocking a culture of bolder and more rapid decision-making with improved accountability. We continue to improve our growth profile, with the sale of the global Tea business and the acquisition of Nutrafol. There is more to do, but the changes we have made mean that we start 2023 with momentum, setting us up well for delivering another year of higher growth, which remains our first priority."

ii round-up:

Unilever (LSE:ULVR) is major provider of consumer goods, operating across the five areas of Beauty and Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, Nutrition, and Ice Cream. 

Its 400-plus brands include Vaseline, Dove, Domestos, Hellmann’s and Ben and Jerry’s. 

For a round-up of these latest results announced on 9 February, please click here

ii view:

Started in 1929, Unilever today sells its products in more than 190 countries. Employing over 145,000 people, its goods are used by around 3.4 billion people every day. Sales of Nutrition or food, and Personal Care products generate its biggest slug of sales at around 23% each of overall sales, followed by Home Care at 21% and Beauty and Wellbeing at 20%. Ice cream is its smallest category, accounting for around 13% of sales. 

A total of 14 of its brands including OMO, Rexona, Sunsilk and Magnum generate annual sales of more than one billion euros. Geographically, close to three-fifths of its revenues are made across Emerging Markets. 

For investors, rising costs such as energy and materials to produce its many products have been squeezing adjusted operating profit margin – down 2.3% to 16.1%. A cost-of-living crisis for consumers is also resulting in some trading down to other potentially cheaper and likely supermarket-own brands with overall volumes for the year down 2.1%. The cost of ongoing and increased investments in areas such as marketing is also weighing on its operating profit margin.  

On the upside, product price increases are helping to offset increased costs. Diversity across both products sold and geographical markets is high, a cost-savings programme continues to be pursued, a new chief executive as of July 2023 may further reinvigorate group strategy, while focus remains on shareholder returns, with €1.5 billion of share buybacks made over 2022 and the shares sat on an estimated future dividend yield of 3.6%. 

For now, and while some caution appears sensible, this consumer goods giant looks to remain worthy of its place in many long-term focused investor portfolios.  

Positives: 

  • Diversity in both product type and geographical location
  • Cost-saving programme

Negatives:

  • Cost pressures
  • Discount retailers often only stock their own branded labels

The average rating of stock market analysts:

Strong hold

These articles are provided for information purposes only.  Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties.  The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

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