Unilever posts weaker-than-expected fourth quarter

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Consumer goods giant Unilever reported lower than expected fourth-quarter underlying sales growth, as the emerging market downturn that rocked performance earlier in the year failed to improve.

The maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap and Lipton tea said on Tuesday that underlying sales - excluding any impact from foreign exchange, acquisitions or disposals - rose 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Analysts on average were expecting a 2.6 percent rise.

Following a dramatic weakening of emerging markets last year that made Unilever's third quarter the weakest in five years, its full-year underlying sales growth came in at 2.9 percent, versus analysts' estimates for growth of 3.1 percent.

"We do not plan on a significant improvement in market conditions in 2015," Chief Executive Paul Polman said. "Against this background, we expect our full year performance to be similar to 2014 with the first quarter being softer but growth improving during the year."