Unilever PLC, the maker of consumer products such as Dove soaps and Magnum ice cream, says sales rose 7.8 percent to €12.6 billion ($16.8 billion) in the fourth quarter thanks to strong demand in developing economies, the company's biggest market in 2012, The Associated Press reported.
Along with the fourth-quarter figures, the company reported full-year net profit was up 4.5 percent to €4.25 billion, on sales that were 10.5 percent higher to €51.3 billion.
The company said Wednesday, Jan 23, it improved full-year profit margins by 0.3 percentage points to 13.8 percent, despite higher commodity costs, by hiking prices, cutting costs, and selling more higher-margin products.
The margin improvement is impressive for a company of Unilever's size, especially amid a weak global economy, though Europe, the weakest region geographically, has become less central to the Anglo-Dutch company's fortunes.
Chief executive Paul Polman said that in 2013 the company is targeting "another year of profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement and strong cash flow."
The company said it is benefitting from recent acquisitions, as it uses its marketing muscles to increase sales of brands such as hair product Tresemmme. Unilever said the brand performed very well in Brazil, and has been rolled out in India and Indonesia, where it will have room to grow.
Unilever also owns Axe, Rexona and Sunsilk, a brand which passed a billion euros in sales for the first time last year.
The company said it saw strong growth at its refreshments division, which includes Lipton tea and Magnum ice cream, another brand that passed a billion in full-year sales.