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European Stocks to Watch: Unilever

Dutch consumer group Unilever rose 4.69% after reporting a 5.7% rise in sales for the first-quarter, citing strength in its home and personal care businesses.

The company’s net profit rose to 1.01 billion euros ($1.37 billion), from 990 million euros ($1.34 billion) last year.

Unilever’s earnings per share from continuing operations in the three months to 31, March rose to 0.34 euro (46 cents) a share, compared with 2006’s earnings of 0.33 euro (45 cents) a share.

Looking ahead, Unilever will face a significant headwind from rising agricultural commodity costs which might require further pricing action, CEO Patrick Cescau said in a statement.

Boliden (down 12.17%) Shares of the Swedish metal firm plunged after it reported a surprise fall in first-quarter pretax earnings, hit by weaker volumes and unfavorable exchange rates.

Corporate Express (down 5.54%) Shares in the Dutch office supplier fell after the group, formerly known as Buhrmann, reported a 35% drop in first-quarter net profit.

Publicis (down 3.51%) The French advertising group reported first-quarter revenues and margins slightly below market expectations.

BMW (down 1%) The German automaker reported a 38% drop of its first-quarter net profit, mainly due to costs from launching new models.

Danisco (up 3.21%) The Danish sugar and ingredients group confirmed it is in talks about a possible sale of its flavors division, Reuters reported.

Delhaize (up 4.47%) The Belgian retailer’s shares rose after Dutch rival Ahold agreed to the sale of U.S. company Foodservice, reviving speculation that the Delhaize and Ahold might merge.

Prudential (up 4.72%) The British insurer’s shares increased on Thursday on renewed talk of a possible breakup, reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Berkeley Group Holdings (up 6.92%) The U.K. homebuilder’s shares increased after UBS raised its target of the company to “buy” from “neutral” and increased its price estimate for the shares by 16% to 2,082 pence.

Provimi (up 10.03%) Shares in France’s Provimi soared after Nutrilux vehicle KoroFrance announced on Wednesday that it plans to launch a public buyout offer for the company at 34 euros ($46.17) a share.