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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 08:25 GMT
Washing days boost Unilever profits
Unilever brands
Unilever is focusing on fewer 'leading brands'
Strong sales of washing and laundry brands have boosted profits at consumer goods group Unilever.

The Anglo-Dutch company, whose brands include Dove soap and Knorr soups, said its decision to focus on fewer leading brands was paying off.

The group is in the middle of a five year plan to concentrate on 400 core brands, which will make up over 90% of its portfolio by the end of this year.

The result of its strategy in 2002 was a 13% jump in profits to 4bn euros, beating forecasts of 3.9bn euros.

Optimism ahead

We are probably more protected than others as people still have to eat and wash themselves

Niall Fitzgerald, Unilever chairman

Unilever, the world's third largest food group after Nestle and Kraft, predicted 2003 would be another successful year.

"The expected acceleration of growth through the year with increased investment in our brands keeps us well on track," said the company. targets.

Chairman Niall Fitzgerald said the group's target of saving 1.6bn euros had passed ahead of schedule and that this was being invested in new products.

These include adding new ranges to leading brands, such as Dove deodorants, face wipes and shampoo.

Eating and drinking

Mr Fitzgerald said the company was still on track to meet its targets for the current year, despite the uncertain economic climate.

"We live in a very uncertain world, but we are probably more protected than others as people still have to eat and wash themselves."

His confidence came despite news that increased pension costs would knock 5% off earnings this year and that increased share options charges would take another 1%.

Mr Fitzgerald said he expected food and drink brands - including Ben & Jerry's ice-cream, Magnum ice-cream and Liptons tea - would rise about 5% this year.

Laundry and washing products, including Sunsilk shampoo and Calvin Klein brands, are expected to grow faster, by 6-7%.

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Niall Fitzgerald, Unilever chairman
"We're less vulnerable than most"
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