Unilever

Unilever boasts that the mission of its Wall’s ice cream brand is “to bring more smiles to more people”.

But the consumer goods giant had rather the opposite effect on Tri Risma Harini, the indomitable mayor of Surabaya, after its latest marketing push in Indonesia’s booming second city went awry on Sunday. Read more

It was only two paragraphs long. But the fallout from a surprise sales warning issued by Unilever last week was anything but minor.

Shares in consumer goods companies across Europe and the US all fell after Unilever warned that weak growth in emerging markets, exacerbated by currency weakness in countries from India to Indonesia and Brazil, would result in underlying sales growth of 3 to 3.5 per cent for the third-quarter. This compares with growth of 5 per cent reported during the first two quarters of the year. Read more

Shares in Hindustan Unilever, Unilever’s Indian arm, soared around 20 per cent on Tuesday after its Anglo-Dutch parent announced a $5.4bn offer to raise its stake from 52.5 per cent to 75 per cent.

That’s certainly a big vote of confidence in the Indian consumer, as Unilever said in its statement. But it also looks like a response to recent moves to tighten rules on the control majority shareholders can exercise over their Indian subsidiaries. Read more

Unilever shares were boosted by better-than-expected Q4 results on Wednesday, with sales growth in emerging markets leading the way.

Unilever is investing heavily in EMs, at some cost to margins, but investors are more than happy to back the strategy, in which the group is planning to raise the proportion of revenues coming from EMs from 55 per cent last year to 70-75 per cent in 2020. The stock was up 3 per cent – the best performer on the FTSE 100 as of mid-afternoon. Read more

Shares in Hindustan Lever, Unilever’s Indian affiliate, were down 4.5 per cent to Rs458.70 in trading on Wednesday, after dropping 3.3 per cent on Tuesday after the company on Monday reported disappointing figures for the quarter ended in December.

Several brokers downgraded the stock, one of India’s top-rated companies and a darling of foreign portfolio investors. Read more

As Reckitt Benckiser‘s results on Monday suggest, what emerging markets give, developed markets take away.

The consumer goods group, maker of products such as Finish dishwasher tablets and Nurofen painkillers, reported a slight increase in first half profits of 2 per cent, to £1.07bn. But the flatish number hides a see-saw in the company’s geographical performance. Read more

What to do if consumer needs change and the demand for your star product evaporates? Economic Darwinists would find that an easy question to answer: “Adapt or die.”

When Unilever was confronted with the decline of Lifebuoy soap in the UK, however, it decided to stick with the product unchanged – but to seek its future in emerging markets. The strategy has paid off. Nearly twenty years after the iconic brand exited its UK and US strongholds, Lifebuoy thrives as never before. Read more

Unilever, the consumer goods conglomerate, has long relied on door to door saleswomen – dubbed Shakti ammas – to sell its soaps, shampoos and laundry detergents in rural India. Now it has brought their menfolk on board. Read more

For two years Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has been ratcheting up the pressure on foreign-owned firms demanding that they dispose of a minimum of 51 per cent of their shares to indigenous Zimbabweans. This week’s agreement (in principle) for the localisation of majority ownership of Zimbabwe’s largest exporter Zimplats has the potential to be a gamechanger, economically and politically.

With elections due in the next 18 months, the Zanu-PF will be keen to push on with the programme. So which companies are next in line? Read more