Apr 16, 2015 06:29 AM EDT

Unilever first-quarter sales better than expected

Unilever reported better-than-expected sales for the first quarter on Thursday, showing improvement from the hammering it took last year from weak emerging markets including a slowdown in China.

The Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soap, Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream cited an improvement in China and an earlier Easter.

"Conditions overall remain challenging," said Chief Financial Officer Jean Marc Huet, but added the company was starting to see "more tailwinds than headwinds" in its markets.


Huet told Reuters that Unilever's full-year sales growth would probably come in at the upper end of its prior stated goal of 2 to 4 percent.

In the first quarter, underlying sales rose 2.8 percent, excluding the impact of currency moves, acquisitions and disposals. Analysts on average were expecting a gain of 2.1 percent, according to a company-supplied poll.

At current rates, currency volatility, including the weaker euro, would boost Unilever's full-year sales by 8 to 9 percent, Huet said, with a similar benefit to earnings per share.

Huet declined to comment, in an interview, on Unilever's interest in acquiring any brands being sold by Procter & Gamble.

Unilever shares were up 3.6 percent in London at 0825 GMT (4.25 a.m. ET).

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