Shares in Unilever were up on the FTSE 100 in morning trading after the consumer goods group reported a rise in turnover and net profit in the fourth quarter and full year 2010.
Turnover in the full year rose 11.1 per cent to 44.3 billion euros, while net profit increased 26 per cent to 4.6 billion euros.
In the fourth quarter of 2010 turnover climbed 12 per cent to 10.8 billion euros and net profit was up 15 per cent to just over a billion euros.
The group said it would be paying a quarterly dividend of 0.208 euros per share.
Paul Polman, Chief Executive of Unilever, said, "We are pleased with another year of good results in which we delivered against all our key priorities and further progressed the transformation of Unilever. We delivered strong volume growth, particularly in emerging markets which continued to be the engine of growth. We gained volume share in all regions driven by stronger innovations, significant increases in marketing investment and the extension of our brands into new territories. At the same time we delivered margin improvement through a strong savings programme, lower indirects and volume efficiencies. This, coupled with excellent working capital management, enabled us to deliver robust cash flow.
"The Unilever of today is more agile and confident, now fully fit to compete. We remain focused on serving our consumers and customers and building the long term health of our brands. Despite the intense competition and the return of commodity cost volatility, our objectives remain: profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable underlying operating margin improvement and strong cash flow."
Keith Bowman, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, commented, "With consistent delivery of performance the key to unlocking a higher valuation rating, Unilever appears to be turning the key. Expansion in the Emerging Markets remains the core driver of sales, whilst the group's emulation of product innovation and cost containment at rival Reckitt Benckiser is playing a vital part.
"Nonetheless, there remains little room for complacency. Volatile and currently elevated commodity/raw material prices provide a cost threat to profit margins, while the ability to recoup such costs in the Emerging Markets may prove difficult, with food and consumer goods still accounting for a sizeable proportion of earned income. Furthermore, competition is already intense, with major player Proctor & Gamble yet to fully engage in Western Europe and the Emerging Markets.
"In all, Unilever's transformation deserves credit. The break from traditionally home-grown management was a big change in culture, the product portfolio has been slimmed substantially, whilst product innovation takes time and effort to nurture. On balance, market consensus opinion currently denotes a buy."
By 10:50 shares in Unilever were up 0.32 per cent on the FTSE 100 to 1,863.00 pence per share.