Unilever to acquire American men’s razor company Dollar Shave Club for $1bn
Unilever said it expected trading conditions to remain tough this year Reuters

Consumer goods giant Unilever posted better-than-expected sales in the first six months of the year despite tough market conditions.

The Anglo-Dutch maker of PG Tips and Dove soap said sales rose 4.7% in its first half of the year, just ahead of City expectations.

The company said overall consumer demand remained weak, though it was able to raise prices in selected markets. It added that sales volume growth was low in emerging markets and negative in Europe and in North America.

Pre-tax profits rose 0.8% to €3.64 billion (£3bn, $4bn) in the period on turnover of €26.3 billion, compared with €26.99 billion in the same half last year.

The group results come a day after it revealed it had bought Dollar Shave Club, an American mail-order company that sells low-cost razors and blades, for $1bn.

Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said: "Despite a challenging environment with slower global economic growth and intensifying geopolitical instability, we have again grown profitably in our markets, competitively and driven by strong innovations."

The group said it continued to see price deflation across Europe, as makers of branded food and household goods in the UK struggle to maintain margins amid Britain's fierce supermarket price war.

Polman added: "We have been preparing ourselves for tougher market conditions in 2016 and do not see any sign of an improving global economy."

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst George Simon said: "With interest rates set to remain low, and economic growth looking uncertain for the foreseeable future, Unilever's ability to deliver resilient growth could well remain attractive to investors for some time yet."