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Unilever reports 3.2 percent sales revenue improvement

By Vernon Khelawan Thursday, July 6 2017

Last year Unilever Caribbean Limited (UCL) returned to profitability recording a 3.2 per cent improvement in sales revenue when compared to 2015. And this is how managing director Lucy Walsh put it in her annual review: “Guided by our purpose to ‘Make Sustainable Living Commonplace’, we remain steadfast in our commitment to build brands people trust, delivering consistent, competitive, profitable and responsible growth.”

She said this business model has resulted in another year of strong shareholder returns with EPS at $1.62 and Dividend Yield at 2.1 per cent.

“Facing varied economic prospects across the region,” Walsh said, “Our strategy of diversification across markets resulted in a strong consolidated performance. Following growth of plus 11 per cent in 2016, our developing export markets now account for 43 per cent of our sales revenue. In the mature home market of Trinidad and Tobago, we maintained a market beating flat performance vs prior year.”

She said the company kept strong cost control into 2016, and started to see the benefits of numerous savings programmes impact our performance, which resulted in a strong close on working capital, despite significant Capex investment into our operations.

Her report stated, “Having been at the heart of the local manufacturing industry for 88 years, we continue to invest in maintaining a state-of-the-art operation in Trinidad and Tobago. Last year, we announced the start of a major upgrade at our detergents plant. I am pleased to report that this priority project is on track, and due to be completed as scheduled in mid-2017.”

She continued, “Not only will this allow us to improve our product quality, but at the same time brings the factory up to speed with the highest Unilever global standard. Our colleagues have also had the opportunity to learn new skills, some of them benefitting from training visits to other factories in Latin America to see the new machinery in action and bring their learnings back to Champs Fleurs.”

Walsh said the 2016 results were a reflection of the collective energy, effort and expertise of an extraordinary group of people. “I am proud of the results that were achieved together to deliver another strong year of returns to the company and our shareholders. 2017 is already shaping up to be another tough year. We remain conservative in our outlook but confident that our strategy to grow in export markets, drive tighter grip on business controls and costs, and further develop our talent will result in continued success.”

In his review, chairman of UCL Pablo Garrida, looking to what 2017 would bring wrote, “The headwinds we have seen in 2016 are expected to continue in the coming year in Trinidad and Tobago, with the economic environment showing no sign of recovery in the short-term.”

He said, “Regionally, we do expect some strengthening in other Caribbean territories as we continue to push efforts into building in these markets.” Speaking about the current foreign exchange climate, Garrida said, “This continues to be a key concern. With no foreseeable improvement in the availability of forex in the near future and the gradual depreciation of the TT dollar, we do expect to see sustained cost pressure.”

He said although trading conditions were expected to remain tough for some time, the company will continue to build the foundation for a stronger business into the future. He added that UCL remained committed through its Capex programme to invest into technology and manufacturing operations that would yield benefits well into the future.

“While projections for the year remain guarded, I am optimistic that the shape of our business, the strength of our brands and the resolve of our people will craft the conditions for consistent performance.”

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