Unilever first-quarter sales beat expectations

After fending off the bid in February, chief executive Paul Polman said the company will deliver on promises to increase shareholder returns via buybacks and lift profitability goals.

Underlying sales of Home Care and Personal Care increased 3.4 percent.

That is above analyst expectations for a sales increase of 2%.

KitKat maker Nestle said organic revenue rose 2.3% in the first quarter, compared with the 2% median estimate. Leading the sales growth were emerging markets, which showed a 6.1% sales growth, a 5.8% price rise and 0.8% increase in volume. "Their mission to bring "integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food" is very much in line with our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan".

That offset a small dip in the volume of goods sold. But with Unilever CEO calling margarines "a declining segment", any potential buyer will need to realise some serious synergies in order for the deal to be worthwhile. The company noted this was ahead of the wider market, where growth was around 2%, with negative volumes.

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"Unilever have been pushed by the Kraft Heinz approach into a more radical pace and scale of change than they had originally chosen for themselves", Steve Clayton, fund manager of the HL Select equity funds, wrote in an analyst note.

After almost becoming one of the largest takeover targets in history, Unilever delivered growth ahead of its markets in what CEO Paul Polman called a "solid start" to the year.

"We also expect an improvement in underlying operating margin this year", he said.

It will establish a net debt to pre-tax earnings ratio of 2:1, and will also look at the "dual-headed structure" that sees it listed separately in two countries.

The household-product giant, whose portfolio includes Hellmann's mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, has agreed to buy Sir Kensington's, an upstart food company that makes natural and non-GMO ketchup and eggless mayo, according to people familiar with the matter. The firm said its long-term growth has been vindicated by the quarterly growth.

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