Feb 4, 2021

Unilever: squeeze in

Operating margins at Unilever, home of squeezy-bottle goods such as Domestos bleach and Hellmann's mayonnaise, shrank 60 basis points last year to 18.5 per cent on an underlying basis. Lockdown means more people eat Ben & Jerry's at home instead of restaurants and kiosks where Unilever is able to skim off an extra 10 percentage points or so of margin. Still, US rival Procter & Gamble managed to lift its margins in the second quarter, boosted by productivity cost savings. Unilever plans on digitising and standardising processes, including data and analytics. Higher commodity costs, which eroded margins in the group's food business in the second half, will probably persist.

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