Unilever beats expectations to delight City

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FLORA and Hellmann’s firm Unilever yesterday defied “sluggish” European trading as itdelivered results ahead of City expectations.

Shares in the London-listed consumer goods giant rose 3.1 per cent after its 2012 figures showed a pick-up in growth towards the end of the year, helped by continued strong demand for its products in emerging markets.

Sales volumes were 4.8 per cent higher in the fourth quarter, leading to growth of 3.4 per cent for the year as a whole. But European volumes were up by 0.7 per cent, alongside a small reduction in underlying prices.

It said: “European performance was sluggish, reflecting the fragile state of consumer confidence and intensely competitive markets.”

Group turnover for the year rose by 10.5 per cent to €51.3 billion (£43.1bn), while the company’s net profits increased 7 per cent to €4.9bn (£4.1bn).

A quarterly dividend of €0.243 per share will be paid to investors in March, Unilever added.