Unilever sales ahead of target in first quarter of the year

First time in three months, sales of the household goods giant, Unilever, lifted as the price increased.

Unilever was approached in February by United States rival Kraft Heinz, with a $143bn (£111bn) takeover offer, sending shares shooting up 15 per cent.

Turnover increased 6.1% to €13.3bn ($14.3bn), and underlying sales growth was 2.9% with price up 3.0% and volume down 0.1%.

"The change programme "Connected for Growth" which we started implementing in the autumn previous year is starting to bear fruit and is making Unilever more agile and closer to the local markets, unlocking both further growth and margin". The sales volume dropped 0.1 %, but if the "spreads" division, which is up for sale, is excluded, autonomous growth would have been 3.4 %. During its recent earnings report, in which the company noted a 1.1% volume decline in its food business, Unilever pointed to its Hellmann's Organics line as a top performer.

Within its product segments, Refreshment, Home Care and Personal Care grew ahead of its markets, while sales in Foods were flat, impacted by the later Easter this year.

Unilever's share price has slipped marginally lower in London this morning, having lost 0.32 percent to 3,937.50p as of 08:12 BST, underperforming the broader United Kingdom market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index having climbed into positive territory and now standing 0.16 percent higher at 7,130.03 points.

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"We also expect an improvement in underlying operating margin this year", he said.

Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO: "Organic growth of 2.3% this quarter is within our full-year guidance range".

The company said the growth it saw in ice cream "was helped by strong innovations behind our premium brands", including the recently-launched Magnum in tubs.

It said it aimed to cut more costs, boost margins, buy back shares, increase the dividend, sell or spin off its margarine business, combine its remaining food businesses into one unit and review its dual Anglo-Dutch structure.

Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman announced an overhaul of the company this month, following the rejected acquisition attempt by Kraft Heinz.