Top Companies Report

1. Unilever

July 30, 2010

United Kingdom
www.unilever.com
Sales: $26.2 billion


Key Personnel:
Paul Polman, chief executive officer; Michael Treschow, chairman; Jean-Marc Hüet, chief financial officer; Douglas Anderson Baillie, president, Western Europe; Professor Geneviéve Berger, chief R&D officer; Harish Manwani, president, Asia Africa; Sandy Ogg, chief human resources officer; Michael B. Polk, president, global foods, home and personal care; Pier Luigi Sigismondi, chief supply chain officer; Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer

Major Products:
Personal care—Axe/Lynx, Dove, Lifebuoy, Pond’s, Rexona, Signal, Close-Up, Sunsilk, Lux, Vaseline, Tigi. Household care—Persil/Omo, Cif, Comfort, Domestos, Sunlight, Omo, Radiant, Surf, Snuggle

New Products:
Personal care—Dove Minimizing Deodorant, Signal White Now, Clear shampoo, Dove for Men, Axe Dark Temptation; Home care—Twilight Sensations detergent. Acquisition: Tigi

Comments:
Volume rose 2.3% last year, while underlying sales improved 3.5%. More specifically, personal care sales rose 4% to $16.5 billion, while sales of home care and other products fell more than 3% to $9.7 billion.

By region, sales in Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe rose nearly 3% to $20.7 billion. Unilever noted that volume growth accelerated through the year, reaching 9.4% in the fourth quarter, with strong performances in Indonesia, China, Turkey, Vietnam, Arabia and Australia.

Sales in the Americas fell 2.6% to $17.9 billion, while volume increased 2.5%. Unilever noted that

Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees is a Dove pitchman.
consumer confidence was fragile in the region in general and the U.S. in particular. Still, all major units in the region contributed to volume growth, with strong performances in Brazil, Chile and the U.S. Pricing turned negative in the fourth quarter, especially in the U.S. and Brazil, driven, in part, by a more intensive competitive pricing environment, especially in home and personal care.

In Western Europe, sales fell 6% to $16.8 billion due to low consumer confidence and rising unemployment. As one might expect, the situation was most challenging in southern Europe, especially in Spain and Greece.

Unilever leadership takes great pride in its strength in developing and emerging markets, as well as its robust portfolio. Last year, D&E markets (which include all countries in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, except Japan and Australia) accounted for 49% of sales, up from 47% in 2008. Meanwhile, after a decade of rationalization, Unilever’s top 25 brands represent nearly 75% of sales, and the top 13 brands, including Axe/Lynx, Dove, Lux, Omo, Rexona, Sunsilk and Surf, accounted for sales of $32 billion. Moreover, by the end of 2009, 10 of the top 13 brands were gaining share and the others maintaining share, according to chief executive officer Paul Polman.

Double in Size, While Reducing the Footprint
Earlier this year, Polman said that Unilever has set itself the challenge of doubling the size of its business while reducing its environmental footprint. He said that the key to making this goal happen is by inspiring consumers to switch to a more sustainable way of living through the brands they choose.

Speaking at The Economist’s Sustainability Summit, Polman said, “those companies that wait to be forced into action or who see it solely in terms of reputation management or CSR, will do too little too late and may not even survive.”

In his presentation, Polman cited one estimate that if everyone’s living standards and consumption patterns were similar to those of the average Briton, it would mean that the resources of three planets would be needed.

For the first quarter of 2010, corporate sales rose 6.7% to $14 billion. Sales of personal care products jumped 7.9% to $4.3 billion. Unilever credited the gain to the introduction of Dove Men+Care body wash that was launched in Europe using patented “Nutrium” moisture technology and Dove Hair Damage Repair, which debuted in the U.S. At the same time, Lifebuoy soap was rolled out to new markets including Turkey, Malaysia and Egypt.

Sales of home care products rose 2.5% to $2.5 billion on broad volume growth. Unilever noted that sales of liquid detergent in China are strong and the form is being extended into Turkey. Meanwhile, a reformulated Wheel detergent was relaunched in India and a new and improved Radiant detergent was launched in Thailand and South Africa. Also during the quarter, the household cleaning business launched Cif in India and Domestos in Italy.

In a presentation to analysts, Unilever management noted a continuing effort to drive innovation through the Dove brand. In hair, for example, the Damage Expert range of shampoos and conditioners will build a position based on better hair therapy solutions. It is also a good example of innovative use of new packaging design techniques, according to the company. The range will be introduced into more than 50 markets by the end of the year. Also, Unilever continued to roll out Dove Men+ Care throughout Western Europe and North America, with encouraging early results.

Looking ahead, Polman predicted a long, drawn out recovery and noted that the consumer packaged goods industry can be divided into two camps. In the developed markets, the impact of high fiscal deficits on public spending and taxes, stubbornly high unemployment and low consumer confidence may mean a prolonged period of stagnation in some markets. Yet, in D&E markets, Unilever expects robust growth but at lower levels than in 2007 with a risk of overheating in China and India.
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