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Hindustan Unilever delivers profit growth for fiscal Q4, year

Hindustan Unilever Ltd., the Indian unit of consumer goods giant Unilever PLC, saw profit rise in both the fiscal fourth quarter and its fiscal year ended March 31 amid improving market conditions.

For the final quarter, net profit attributable to owners of the company was 11.83 billion Indian rupees, up about 6% year over year from 11.14 billion rupees. Diluted EPS from continuing operations came in at 5.47 rupees, compared with 5.15 rupees in the year-ago period. The S&P Capital IQ consensus GAAP EPS estimate for the fiscal fourth quarter was 4.82 rupees.

Sales of products were 87.73 billion rupees, growing about 7% from 81.93 billion rupees in the year-ago quarter.

Company CFO PB Balaji said during a May 17 conference call that there has been a gradual recovery in market conditions, which stabilized during the quarter after being hit by demonetization. Input cost inflation that was running high over the last three quarters was starting to moderate as well, he added.

The Mumbai-based group also released stand-alone results for its financial year ended March 31.

Net profit attributable to owners of the company was 44.90 billion rupees, up from 41.37 billion rupees in the previous year. Diluted EPS from continuing operations came in at 20.74 rupees, compared with 19.11 rupees a year earlier. The S&P Capital IQ consensus GAAP EPS estimate for the fiscal year was 20.11 rupees.

Sales of products for the fiscal year grew to 338.95 billion rupees from 329.29 rupees in the previous year.

For both the fourth quarter and fiscal year, the Mumbai-based group's segments of home care, personal care, foods and refreshments all recorded revenue growth, while the minor business line that includes exports as well as infant and feminine care saw a slump in revenue.

Elaborating on segment performances, Balaji said premiumization drove broad-based growth in the home care sector, with brands like Surf continuing growth momentum. He added that the company saw a rebound in personal wash and personal products.

Hindustan Unilever's foods business grew modestly, while the company continued focusing on market development for the category, according to Balaji. He added that the refreshments segment saw sustained "broad-based double-digit growth" in tea products.

During the conference call, CEO Sanjiv Mehta addressed the upcoming goods and services tax, or GST, scheduled to launch July 1 in India, calling it a "welcome reform."

"This will enable the government to widen the tax base, bring about a level playing field and facilitate efficiencies in our industry," he said.

He added that Hindustan Unilever is ready to transition to the new GST system, but is awaiting clarification on a few critical areas such as final rates and compensation for fiscal benefits.

Meanwhile, the company board recommended a final dividend of 10.00 rupees per share. Together with the interim dividend of 7.00 rupees per share, the total dividend for the financial year is 17.00 rupees per share.

As of May 16, US$1 was equivalent to 64.05 Indian rupees.