Anglo-Dutch consumer products titan Unilever – whose global brands include Magnum ice cream, Dove, Omo, Flora, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Lipton tea and Knorr – declared it remains “comfortable” with its full-year twin financial targets.

The colossus is standing by its prediction of double-digit earnings-per-share growth in 2003; accompanied by 5%-6% expansion among its leading brands. Q1 should see EPS before exceptionals increase by around 5%.

Brand growth, however, is likely to be more notable in H2 and may experience a decline of around 200 ‘basis points’ in Q1, which Unilever attributes to ‘calendar effects’ [nice euphemism] which it expects to reverse later in the year.

Incredibly, the City of London bookies thought this disappointing news and Unilever shares fell by over 14% to close Monday at £5.63 ($8.88; €8.30).

The entrail-rakers had hoped for better, according to Investec Securities’ David Lang: “We were looking for a bit more, maintaining the momentum after a stunning fourth quarter. But this is going to fluctuate and Easter will have an effect.”

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