Unilever launches $1.6 billion buyback, CEO calls for improvements By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Unilever logo is displayed on Dove soap boxes in this illustration taken on January 17, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

By Richa Naidu

LONDON (Reuters) -Unilever launched a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) share buyback on Thursday after volumes increased for the first time in 10 quarters, although the company’s CEO said its overall performance still needed to improve.

While the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s condiments said its full-year underlying operating profit rose 2.6% to 9.9 billion euros and its underlying operating margin was up 60 basis points to 16.7%, it missed analyst expectations for operating profit of 10.4 billion euros and a margin of 16.9%.

“Our competitiveness remains disappointing and overall performance needs to improve,” CEO Hein Schumacher said in a statement. “We are at the early stages of this work and there is much to do but we are moving with speed and urgency to transform Unilever (LON:) into a consistently higher performing business.”

Unilever said it expects a “modest improvement” in underlying operating margin for the full year and underlying sales growth will be within its multi-year range of 3% to 5%.

The consumer goods giant reported a roughly 5% rise in fourth-quarter underlying sales, meeting analysts’ average forecast, a company-provided consensus showed.

Underlying fourth quarter price growth was 2.8% and underlying volumes were up 1.8%, rising for the first time since the second quarter of 2021. The price rise was less than analysts expected, while sales volumes rose more than forecast.

Unilever said its buyback programme will start in the second quarter.

($1 = 0.9271 euros)

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