LONDON: Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever reports solid sales in the first quarter of this year, with the likelihood of continued growth throughout 2008.

The owner of brands such as Surf washing powder and Lipton tea says underlying sales for the January-March period rose 7.2% to €9.57 billion ($14.67; £7.49bn). Operating profits climbed 39% to €1.81bn during Q1.

In addition, the company increased its marketing spend in line with the upward sales trend.

Unilever says it has offset rising commodity costs by increasing the prices of its products, especially in developing markets.

In Africa, for example, it increased prices by 6.3% and volume sales rose 7.5%. In Europe, on the other hand, prices rose 2.5% while volume fell slightly.

Ceo Patrick Cescau said the group was continuing to invest in its brands "while taking the necessary pricing action to recover a sharp increase in commodity costs".

He added that the business was "well placed to deliver competitive growth with an underlying improvement in operating margin in 2008, despite challenging conditions".

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff