Net profit at the Anglo-Dutch company whose brands include Lipton tea, Dove soaps and Ben & Jerry's ice creams, dropped 38% to 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) from 2018, when profit was boosted by the sale of the company's spreads division.
Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope said the impact on Unilever of the new virus that has emerged from China in recent weeks is still unknown. Unilever's tea brands also include Brooke Bond and PG Tips and it has expanded its portfolio of premium, herbal and fruit teas in recent years, but the company said that sales of black tea have been falling for several years “due to changing consumer preferences.”
The strategic review of the tea division is expected to finish by mid-year and “will consider all options” for the future of the business, the company said. Jope said while underlying sales growth, which strips out numbers from countries experiencing hyperinflation, is expected to improve from the last quarter of 2019, underlying sales growth in the first half of this year will be below 3%.
Compared to the previous day's close, Unilever shares rose by nearly 1% on Amsterdam's stock exchange by late Thursday morning to 51.95 euros.