Swedish hygiene products maker Essity reported fourth-quarter core earnings below market expectations, but said it was able to improve margins year-on-year despite lower volumes in the quarter.
Essity reported adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation (EBITA) of SEK 4.86 billion (€430 million) for the last three months of 2023, missing an LSEG poll estimate of SEK 5.22 billion (€460 million).
This was up from SEK 4.11 billion (€360 million) a year earlier, restated after the agreed sale of its Vinda stake.
Adjusted EBITA margin rose to 13.3% from 11.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022, its fifth consecutive margin increase.
Essity has been growing its margins over the past year at the expense of falling volumes, a trend the management has said it wants to start reversing, though shipping disruptions at the Red Sea might again force companies to pass higher input costs onto consumers to protect margins.
The company had in October flagged that cancellations of contracts in the third quarter would also have a negative effect on volumes in the fourth.
Essity proposed a dividend of SEK 7.75 per share for 2023, a 7% increase from SEK 7.25 it paid for 2022. In the two years prior, it had increased dividends by 4% per year.
Elsewhere, Kleenex tissue maker Kimberly-Clark missed expectations for fourth-quarter net sales and profit due to slowing price hikes.