For full-year 2013, underlying sales growth topped 4.3% to 49.8 billion euros. Core earnings per share were 1.58 euros a share, 3% higher than the year earlier, and beating Thomson Reuters estimates of 1.53 euros a share.
"We have delivered another year of consistent underlying sales growth and margin expansion coupled with strong cash flow. This has been achieved despite significant economic headwinds and highly competitive markets and reflects the benefits of strong margin accretive innovations and active cost management," said CEO Paul Polman in a statement.
In its fourth quarter, the consumer goods giant reported underlying sales growth of 8.4% in emerging markets, up from a 5.9% increase over the previous quarter. High-growth regions such as Indonesia, Brazil and India generate more than half Unilever's sales so strengthening demand in these markets proved a boon.Over 2014, the London-based business expects capital expenditures between 4% and 4.5% of sales as funds are reinvested in personal care brands and emerging markets, Africa in particular. However, Unilever sees macroeconomic headwinds over the year ahead potentially slowing growth. "Looking forward, we anticipate ongoing volatility in the external environment and are positioning Unilever accordingly," Polman warned. "Once again, we remain focused on delivering profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement and strong cash flow."