Unilever yesterday announced that it is cutting costs. But it is not the only one, The Financial Times Lex column explains. Colgate Palmolive also said that it planned to cut 6 per cent of its workforce as part of an effort to save 40m dollars a year. Investors have warmed to Unilever of late, despite difficulties in its food business in Europe, where it got the price of its spreads wrong. The shares
are up 11 per cent in the past year and have closed the traditional valuation discount with Procetr&Gamble. Both now trade on 18 times forecast earnings, which will be enough to put some shoppers off. But disappointments are growing in the consumer goods sector, and Unilever is one of the few companies to avoid them, so it is well worth putting some in the basket.
Despite the challenging market backdrop, Unilever's strategy looks like it is working. Focusing on growth in emerging economies is boosting both the sales and profit - and the consumer products giant smashed expectations in the third quarter of the year. Shares in the Anglo-Dutch group hit an all-time high yesterday, following a particularly strong performance in Brazil. The company is no stranger to developing markets, having more than 50 years' experience in Brazil, China, India and Indonesia. For the group as a whole, Unilever said yesterday that it remained on track to deliver a modest improvement in operating margin, which last year came in at 14.9%. These numbers, in a challenging period, demonstrate that the group's emerging market strategy is on track. Questor has had a hold rating on the shares for some time because the valuation appears pretty full. Trading on a 2012 multiple of 18.2, falling to 16.7 next year and yielding 3.3 per cent, the view remains the same. However, Unilever really does look like it is now starting to deliver and The Telegraph´s Questor team has no compunction about advising investors to hold on.
Bloomsbury Publishing saw its shares move lower yesterday after a mixed set of interim numbers. However, prospects for the second half of the year could be much better. The first half is traditionally weaker - with the key Christmas season being vital for book publishing. Releases lined up for the next few months include titles from celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul Hollywood, as well as a Hogwarts Library Boxed Set from J K Rowling and the latest novel from Will Self. Despite the fall in first-half profits the results were roughly in line with analysts' expectations. Sales and the dividend were higher than expected, although with profit being a touch light. However, there was evidence that the group's digital strategy is paying off. The company is focusing on electronic publishing, with its e-book sales rising by 89% in the period to £4.5m. Questor last recommended a buy at 117p in July, and the shares are now 11% ahead. They are trading on a current-year earnings multiple of 10.5 times, falling to 9.8 next year and yielding an attractive 4.3%, rising to 4.6%. Questor thinks this valuation looks full for now. Ahead of the key Christmas trading period, the rating is a hold.
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