Anglo-Dutch company Unilever slashed its brand portfolio to concentrate on such top names as Knorr soup and Lipton tea. Following the restructuring, Unilever posted a 29% increase in net profits for 2003 on a basis of constant exchange rates.
Unilever executives said the Euro rose strongly against most currencies last year, but exchange rate variations helped its debt situation.
Fourth-quarter profits soared by 199%, according to Unilever executives. The figures included the effects of asset sales last year as part of a restructuring plan to increase growth by focusing on such brands as Magnum, Dove, Knorr and Lipton.
Unilever executives said leading brands accounted for 93% of sales by its 540 branded products, and that by the end of 2004 the percentage will rise to 95%, in-line with targets.
Unilever’s net annual profit at constant exchange rates was $3.5 billion, up from $2.6 billion. In the fourth quarter, net profits rose to $996.3 million, up from $332.9 million in 2002.
Between 2005-2010, Unilever ex-pects to generate more than $36 billion, executives said.
“Continued strong cash flow and particularly favorable currency movements have allowed us to reduce net debt ahead of schedule,” said Niall Fitzgerald, company co-chairman.