Unilever reported a 9% rise in full-year, pre-tax profits to €7.1 billion, helped by an improved performance in emerging markets for the maker of consumer products including Knorr stock cubes and Marmite.
The company, which just a few months ago was warning of the impact of slowing emerging markets, this time warned of weakness in developed markets.
Overall though, the company’s forecast-beating results were enough to lift shares in the Citywire Top Stock 4.1% to £25.38. That made it the biggest riser on a flat FTSE 100 at 6,837.
The City was upbeat on Unilever. ‘We continue to see stable growth momentum, scope for M&A and healthy margin improvement through mix, and as the company leverages investments of the past three years,’ commented Nomura analyst David Hayes, who rates Unilever as ‘neutral’
Standard Chartered, the Asian focused bank whose shares have struggled for traction recently, is at the top of bankers’ lists of takeover targets, according to the Financial Times. Analysts have recently suggested potential bidders, including Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. Shares rose 3% on Tuesday morning, to £13.68.
Continuing Tuesday’s tale of emerging markets support – rare in recent months and years as emerging market growth has stalled – European shares were benefiting from action taken by China’s central bank. The People’s Bank has been adding funds to markets to calm recurrent fears of a credit crunch. Asian markets responded well to the subsequent easing in Chinese money rates, with Japanese and Chinese benchmark indices up around 1%.
UK markets may have also taken solace from news reports that the International Monetary Fund was set to upgrade UK growth forecast for 2014 from 1.9% to 2.4%. The fund has tended to lag other forecasters in recent years though.
Though the FTSE 100 has only ended lower in one of the last seven trading days – and isn’t far off a 52 week high – its gains have been muted amid concerns about whether company earnings will justify high stock valuations, China’s growth and the path the US Federal Reserve will take towards ending its stimulus scheme.