When you generate almost $50 billion in annual sales, operate around the world, and have literally dozens of brands to manage, operational turnarounds take time. That said, Unilever
Given still-difficult conditions in Europe, I think Unilever did all right for its fourth quarter. One word of warning, though: There are many ways to review these numbers (including/excluding currency, adjusting for a different number of days in the quarter, etc.), so your interpretation of the numbers may be a bit different from mine.
While reported revenue climbed more than 3% for the quarter, underlying performance (that is, excluding currency) was down very slightly (0.1%) as a decline in volumes just outpaced a rise in pricing. Adjusting the numbers to a "like for like" number of days, though, reverses that to a modest revenue increase. Likewise, profit comparisons with the year-ago quarter are obscured by some charges in the year-ago periods.
That said, the adjusted operating margin declined slightly this quarter (about 130 basis points) on higher ad spending. Free cash flow declined year over year, though the company's reported 12.5% return on invested capital improved upon the year-ago figure.
Conditions are still tough in Europe, but emerging and developing markets could be an ace in the hole for Unilever over the long haul. This company gets roughly more than one-third of its revenue outside Western Europe and North America -- a figure that seems to trail that of Colgate-Palmolive
I was disappointed to see that Unilever chose to maintain its dual-share structure, but it doesn't really make the company as a whole that much less attractive. More aggressive investors might find the potential in these shares a little unimpressive, but it still seems like a solid turnaround story to me.
For more Foolish food for thought:
Unilever is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation, and Colgate-Palmolive is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Whether you're into dividends or bargain stocks, or even if some other investing style suits you best, the Fool has a newsletter for you. Take a look at our newsletter family, and try one of them out free for 30 days .
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).
More from The Motley Fool
GM Proved Doubters Wrong in 2017 With a Strong Crossover Lineup
GM surprised the market when it announced strong guidance thanks to a revamped line of crossovers and SUVs. Better still, it delivered on the promises.
Ford's Behind-the-Scenes Focus on Data
Ford’s recent partnerships and small-scale tests could bode well for the future.
Ford's Tumultuous 2017
Ford’s stock languished behind GM throughout 2017. Will 2018 be a turnaround year?