Unilever's U.S. sales grow nearly 4% for year

by Jeff Gelski
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ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS — Lipton ready-to-drink teas, Bertolli frozen meals and the Slim Fast brand all gained share in the United States as Unilever reported underlying sales growth of 3.7% in the Americas for 2006. Turnover in the Americas increased 5% to €13,779 million ($17,963 million) from €13,179 million ($17,181 million) in the previous fiscal year.

"Our share for the year as a whole was also up in ice cream, but sales were down," Unilever said of its U.S. results. "The category has been heavily promoted in recent years, but in 2006 the level of promotional intensity reduced. As a result, the trade bought less as they used up stocks."

Companywide, Unilever reported underlying sales growth of 3.8% and net profit from continuing operations of 10%. Sales of net profit from joint ventures were ahead of the previous year because of continued growth in the partnerships between Lipton and PepsiCo for ready-to-drink tea.

In 2007, Unilever expects to deliver underlying sales growth within the longer term target range of 3% to 5%, said Patrick Cescau, group chief executive, when full-year 2006 results were reported on Feb. 8.

"The new organization and the implementation of ‘One Unilever’ are improving Unilever’s operational effectiveness; bringing faster decision making, better local execution and enabling us to allocate resources more effectively across our portfolio," Mr. Cescau said.

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