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Unilever NV Management Discusses Q2 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Stocks in this article: UN

Now increasingly, the continued high level of economic and political uncertainty further fuels an already concerning macroeconomic picture. It's fair to say that following the 2008 crisis, unprecedented policy support had not resulted in the desired levels of growth, and the enormous de-leveraging we've been always talking about, and we see now happening especially in the developed world, is starting to dampen market growth and consumption.

In the emerging markets, growth rates are slowing as well. In China you've seen it go down from about 10% to 7.5%. Brazil, always running around the 6%, 7%, now 1%. India dropping from the 7%, 8% to 5%. And currencies are weakening as well. That adds to the inflationary pressures and squeezing consumer disposable incomes. Take for example, the Brazilian real, depreciated 15% against the euro, more against the dollar, between middle 2011 and mid 2012. And I think I keep the same for the Indian rupee and some other things. The developed markets are likely to remain difficult as well with unemployment further increasing and consumer confidence decreasing as austerity measures are starting to bite.

At best, we can hope for the status quo to persist but we need to prepare, as usual, for the worst. In the U.S., for example, retail sales have now fallen for 3 consecutive months which was last seen in 2008. The situation in Europe is well known to all of us, so no point rehashing it here. Better to confront the realities and to deal with it, and that's the position we've always taken.

I've spoken before about scale of use and employment in parts of southern Europe and the potential consequences from a lack of social cohesion. That Europe's difficulties are not anymore confined to the south. 2012 growth prospects here in the U.K., for example, have been slashed again, this time from 0.8% to 0.2%. A year ago just to remind ourselves, the IMF had still forecasted 2.3% and the numbers that I just saw this morning coming out for the second quarter are actually a negative, minus 0.7%.

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