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, the maker of Dove soap and Lipton teas, said fourth-quarter earnings fell 24% to 906 million euros ($1.25 billion) and it sees continued pressure on consumer spending.

Unilever said sales fell 4.8% in the quarter to 9.66 billion euros. Underlying sales, which exclude acquisitions and sales, among other things, rose 1.8% on volume growth of 5%.

"We expect continued pressure on consumer spending power and heightenedlevels of competitive activity in 2010," said CEO Paul Polman, in a statement Thursday. " We will continue to focus on volume growth as the main driver of long-term value creation, whilst delivering steady and sustainable year-on-year improvement in operating margin and strong cash flow."

Unilever shares were down a little more than 2% in London trading.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York.

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