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Unilever (or 'the group') is one of the world's leading fast moving consumer goods companies. It offers products across foods, home and personal care categories. The group primarily operates in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. It is headquartered in London, the UK and employs about 171,000 people (Unilever, 2007).

The group recorded revenues of E46,467 million (approximately $64,700.7 million) during the financial year ended December 2011 (FY2011), an increase of 5% over FY2010.The increase in net revenues was driven by outstanding performance in emerging markets and in the home care and personal care categories. The operating profit of the group was E6,433 million (approximately $8,957.3 million) in FY2011, an increase of 1.5% over FY2010. The net profit was E4,252 million (approximately $5,920.5 million) in FY2011, an increase of 0.2% over FY2010.

Business Description

Unilever is a dual-listed company with two parent companies, Unilever N.V. and Unilever PLC.

Unilever N.V. is a public limited company registered in the Netherlands, whereas Unilever PLC is a public limited company registered in England and Wales. These two companies function as a single operating business, but retain separate legal identities and stock exchange listings. The two parent companies, together with their Group companies, operate as a single entity (Unilever) (Floris, 1992). Unilever is one of the world's premier fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies with a host of well known brands in the foods, home and personal care categories.The group sells its products through distribution centers, satellite warehouses, group-operated facilities, and public storage depots (Jones, 2002, pp. 435-78).

The group's primary operating segment comprises of three geographic regions: Asia, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe; The Americas; and Western Europe. Although Unilever's operations are managed on a geographical basis, the group also reports revenues based on the various product categories it operates in, which include: personal care, home care, foods and refreshment. These categories act as its principal product areas, as well as the secondary reporting segments. The personal care segment includes skin care and hair care products, deodorants and oral care products.The group's major brands in this segment include Dove, Lux, Rexona, Sunsilk, Axe, Pond's, Lifebuoy, Vaseline, and Close Up (Unilever, 2007).

The foods segment includes sales of soups, bouillons, sauces, snacks, mayonnaise, salad dressings, margarines and spreads, and cooking products such as liquid margarines. Popular brands operating under this segment are: Knorr, Blue Band, Rama, Hellmann's and Amora.

Unilever's refreshment segment includes sales of ice cream, tea-based beverages, weight-management products, and nutritionally enhanced staples sold in developing markets.

Heartbrand, Lipton, Slim-Fast, Becel and Flora are the prominent brands sold under the refreshments segment (Phelps, 1997).

The home care segment includes sales of home care products, such as laundry tablets, powders and liquids, soap bars and a wide range of cleaning products. Unilever's global brands in this segment include Omo, Surf, Comfort, Radiant, Cif, Domestos and Sunlight.


Historical perspective

Jurgens and Van den Bergh opened their first factories to produce margarine, in 1872. By 1898, Van den Bergh had 750 sales personnel and launched a new branded margarine, ...
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