Consumer goods giant Unilever has pulled its full-year forecast, saying it could not 'reliably assess the impact' of the coronavirus pandemic on its business, but said it would pay its quarterly interim dividend as planned.
The company said underlying sales for the first three months of the year were flat, as a sharp decline in shopping and restaurant trips in China during much of the quarter offset gains from stay-at-home consumers stockpiling its soups and laundry detergent in Europe and North America.
First-quarter turnover rose 0.2% to €12.40 billion, slightly missing estimate of €12.77 billion, according to analysts polled by Factset.
"China suffered a significant decline as the lock-down measures restricted out of home eating and shopping trips across much of the quarter," the company said, adding that a lockdown in India from mid-March severely limited the flow of goods and led to a decline in South Asia.
The Anglo-Dutch company's report follows strong results from larger rival Procter & Gamble, which last week reported its biggest U.S. sales increase in decades, as Americans stockpiled cleaning essentials before hunkering down in their homes due to coronavirus-related lockdowns.
Unilever is reviewing all areas of cash generation and usage as well as re-evaluating all costs in light of the health crisis, Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope said.