Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Files

LONDON (Reuters) – Unilever reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter sales on Thursday, hurt by flat volume growth in developed markets.

In its first set of results under new chief executive Alan Jope, the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said fourth-quarter underlying sales rose 2.9 percent. Analysts, on average, were expecting 3.5 percent, a consensus forecast supplied by the company showed.

For the full year, Unilever reported turnover of 49.6 billion euros ($57.05 billion), excluding its divested spreads business, and earnings of 3.48 euros per share.

The Anglo-Dutch group, which is working to move past last year’s botched plan to move its main headquarters to the Netherlands, had said full-year sales growth would be at the bottom end of its 3 to 5 percent forecast range.

Looking ahead, it said it expects 2019 market conditions to remain challenging and forecast underlying sales growth again in the lower half of a 3 to 5 percent range, with continued improvement in underlying operating margin and another year of strong free cash flow.

It said it remained on track for its 2020 goals.

($1 = 0.8693 euros)

Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jason Neely


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