By Callum Keown
European consumer goods giants Unilever and Nestle both reported slowing sales growth in China as the pair posted mixed results.
Unilever’s stock /zigman2/quotes/204685760/composite UL +2.44% /zigman2/quotes/205449809/delayed UK:ULVR +0.34% ticked up 1.2% on Thursday despite the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate missing sales estimates.
Underlying sales rose 2.9% in the third quarter, below analysts’ estimates of 3%.
Sales were dented by a slowdown in growth in India and China, two key emerging markets, which has been a priority for the company since Alan Jope replaced Paul Polman as chief executive last year.
Developed market sales fell 0.1%, as the company continued to struggle in Europe.
The Ben & Jerry’s owner also reported lower ice cream sales due to a cooler summer and weaker tea sales in developed markets.
Emerging markets sales growth overall was 5.1%, led by South East Asian markets, while home-care products such as Sunlight dishwashing liquid and Cif stain remover also drove the sales rise.
“We will step-up competitive top line performance through innovation and portfolio evolution to serve the faster growing geographies and channels,” said Jope.
Nestle’s /zigman2/quotes/210131093/delayed NSRGY +0.19% /zigman2/quotes/208115528/delayed CH:NESN -0.14% organic growth in the first nine months of the year was 3.7%, with third quarter growth decelerating slightly after a strong second quarter, outperforming rivals Unilever.
Sales in the nine months ended Sept. 30 were 68.37 billion Swiss francs ($69.1 billion), up from 66.42 billion francs year-on-year.
However, the world’s largest food and drinks company said growth in China has been flat so far this year.
The Swiss giant also said it would overhaul its struggling bottled water business in a bid to reinvigorate growth.
The water business, which sells brand including San Pellegrino, Pure Life and Perrier, will go from being a stand-alone business to one managed locally in Nestlé’s various regions.
Nestle also announced it would return up to $20 billion to shareholders between 2020 and 2022.
The stock fell 2.3% on Thursday.