Two of the UK's best known manufacturing companies have announced strong third quarter performances.
Unilever saw a better-than-expected 4.5 per cent growth in underlying sales, while ICI posted an 18 per cent rise in adjusted pretax profit.
Unilever said price hikes and a strict savings plan helped offset soaring commodity costs, while ICI said it had been helped by good underlying sales from its specialty starches, polymers and decorative paints divisions in Asia and Latin America.
Unilever, maker of everything from Dove soaps to Lipton teas, said although sales had been good its UK showing had been mixed, with the group losing market share in hair care and laundry sectors, while seeing improved food dressings.
European sales slowed from 2.7 per cent in the third quarter last year to 0.7 per cent on an underlying basis as poor weather saw consumer demand wane for its ice cream brands, which include Ben & Jerry's and Magnum.
ICI said European market conditions were varied in the period, and while Asia and Latin America remained strong, North America continued to be challenging, particularly for paints.
Unilever said the sweeping restructuring plans announced in August - which will see 20,000 jobs cut over the next four years - had begun to bear fruit in its European operation.
However, the bill for the "One Unilever" cost cutting programme saw operating margins in Europe over the first nine months of the year dip to 13.7 per cent from 15 per cent in the same period last year. The company shake-up cost Uni-lever £162.8 million in the third quarter, leading to a seven per cent drop in operating profits, at £974 million. Pretax profits for the period increased by 21 per cent to £953 million.
Chief executive Patrick Cescau said the group was confident of meeting its stated targets for 2007. It expects full-year underlying sales growth to be at the upper end of its three-to-five per cent target range.
"I am confident that we will achieve our outlook for 2007, given in August, and that our change programme leaves us well placed to deliver our longer term objectives," he said.
Unilever, which also makes Hellmann's mayonnaise, said in August on announcing the overhaul that the focus of the job cuts would be on its European operations.
More than 300 jobs will be lost at three of its UK factories at Burton, Warrington and Port Sunlight on the Wirral over the next year and the group revealed in September that it is also reviewing the future of three other sites. Before the latest round of job cuts, Unilever employed around 8,000 people in the UK.
Meanwhile, ICI yesterday said it was confident that shareholders would approve Akzo Nobel's planned £8 billion takeover of the company at its EGM on Tuesday.
Dutch rival Akzo's takeover is expected to be completed in January once it secures regulatory and shareholder consent.
ICI yesterday posted a third-quarter pretax profit before special items of £177 million, which compares with £149 million last year. Sales on continuing operations rose to £1.265 billion from £1.244 billion a year ago.
Pretax profit for the quarter, however, fell to £112 million from £128 million.
Consensus figures for the quarter to September pointed to a pretax profit of £155 million.
Shares closed up 71p at 1696p.