THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Unilever, the consumer products giant that sells Dove soaps and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, said Thursday that Europe’s hot summer and the sale of its spreads division helped drive up net profit last year by 51 percent, to 9.8 billion euros ($11.2 billion).
However, sales fell 5.1 percent to 51 billion euros ($58.5 billion) due to the divestment of the spreads division and exchange rate fluctuations, the company said. In the fourth quarter of 2018, sales dropped 5.3 percent to 12.15 billion euros ($13.9 billion).
Unilever’s new CEO, Alan Jope, described 2018 as a solid year.
“In 2019 we expect market conditions to remain challenging,” he said, adding that sales growth will likely be in the lower half of its multiyear target of between three and five percent.
Unilever said modest sales growth in its developed markets was helped by “a standout year for ice cream in Europe,” where warm weather and new products helped sales.
The company’s underlying sales in North America edged up 0.9 percent as strong sales of deodorants, soaps and home care products were offset by competition in the market for tea and dressings.