Source - RNS
RNS Number : 5112S
Unilever PLC
11 March 2019

Unilever PLC ("Unilever")



2018 Annual Financial Report Announcement


Unilever announces that as from today the following documents are available on its website



Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2018


Unilever Annual Report on Form 20-F 2018



A copy of each of the documents listed has been submitted to the National Storage Mechanism and will shortly be available for inspection at: A copy of the Unilever Annual Report on Form 20-F 2018 has also been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and is available at:


Attached to this announcement is the additional information for the purposes of compliance with the Disclosure and Transparency Rules including principal risk factors, details of related party issues and a responsibility statement.


The unaudited 2018 Full Year and Fourth Quarter Results for the year ended 31 December 2018, which were announced on 31 January 2019, were prepared in accordance with IAS 34.




Principal Risk Factors


These are the risks that we see as most material to Unilever's business and performance at this time. There may be other risks that could emerge in the future.


We also comment below on certain mitigating actions that we believe help us to manage these risks. However, we may not be successful in deploying some or all of these mitigating actions. If the circumstances in these risks occur or are not successfully mitigated, our cash flow, operating results, financial position, business and reputation could be materially adversely affected. In addition, risks and uncertainties could cause actual results to vary from those described, which may include forward-looking statements, or could impact on our ability to meet our targets or be detrimental to our profitability or reputation.







As a branded goods business, Unilever's success depends on the value and relevance of our brands and products to consumers around the world and on our ability to innovate and remain competitive.


Consumer tastes, preferences and behaviours are changing more rapidly than ever before, and Unilever's ability to identify and respond to these changes is vital to our business success.


Technological change is disrupting our traditional brand communication models. Our ability to develop and deploy the right communication, both in terms of messaging content and medium is critical to the continued strength of our brands.


We are dependent on creating innovative products that continue to meet the needs of our consumers and getting these new products to market with speed. If we are unable to innovate effectively, Unilever's sales or margins could be materially adversely affected.





We monitor external market trends and collate consumer, customer and shopper insights in order to develop category and brand strategies.


Our strategy focuses on investing in markets and segments which we identify as attractive because we have already built, or are confident that we can build, competitive advantage.


Our brand communication strategies are designed to optimise digital communication opportunities. We develop and customise brand messaging content specifically for each of our chosen communication channels (both traditional and digital) to ensure that our brand messages reach our target consumers.


Our Research and Development function actively searches for ways in which to translate the trends in consumer preference and taste into new technologies for incorporation into future products.


Our innovation management process converts category strategies into projects which deliver new products to market. We develop product ideas both in house and with selected partners to enable us to respond to rapidly changing consumer trends with speed.





Unilever's strategic investment choices will affect the long-term growth and profits of our business.


Unilever's growth and profitability are determined by our portfolio of categories, geographies and channels and how these evolve over time. If Unilever does not make optimal strategic investment decisions, then opportunities for growth and improved margin could be missed.





Our strategy and our business plans are designed to ensure that resources are prioritised towards those categories and markets having the greatest long-term potential for Unilever.


Our acquisition activity is driven by our portfolio strategy with a clear, defined evaluation process.




The success of our business depends on finding sustainable solutions to support long-term growth.


Unilever's vision to grow our business, while decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact, will require more sustainable ways of doing business.


In a world where resources are scarce and demand for them continues to increase, it is critical that we succeed in reducing our resource consumption and converting to sustainably sourced supplies.


In doing this we are dependent on the efforts of partners and various certification bodies. We are also committed to improving health and well-being and enhancing livelihoods around the world so Unilever and our communities grow successfully together. There can be no assurance that sustainable business solutions will be developed and failure to do so could limit Unilever's growth and profit potential and damage our corporate reputation.





The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan sets clear long-term commitments to improve health and well-being, reduce environmental impact and enhance livelihoods. Underpinning these are targets in areas such as hygiene, nutrition, sustainable sourcing, fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women and inclusive business as well as greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste. These targets and more sustainable ways of operating are being integrated into Unilever's day-to-day business through initiatives such as efficient packaging design, waste reduction and recycling and converting to use of renewable energy.


Progress towards the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is monitored by the Unilever Leadership Executive and the Boards. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Advisory Council, comprising seven external specialists in sustainability, guides and critiques the development of our strategy.




Climate changes and governmental actions to reduce such changes may disrupt our operations and/or reduce consumer demand for

our products.


Climate changes are occurring around the globe which may impact our business in various ways. They could lead to water shortages which would reduce demand for those of our products that require a significant amount of water during consumer use. They could also lead to an increase in raw material and packaging prices or reduced availability. Governments may take action to reduce climate change such as the introduction of a carbon tax or zero net deforestation requirements which could impact our business through higher costs or reduced flexibility of operations.


Increased frequency of extreme weather (storms and floods) could cause increased incidence of disruption to our manufacturing and distribution network. Climate change could result therefore in making products less affordable or less available for our consumers resulting in reduced growth and profitability.





As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we monitor climate change and are responding by developing operations and products with reduced environmental impact.


We seek to develop products that will require less water during consumer use.


We aim to minimise our impact on climate change through committing to emission reduction targets and have developed a roadmap to be carbon positive by 2030.


We monitor trends in raw material availability and pricing, and proactively reformulate our products where appropriate.


We monitor governmental developments around actions to combat climate change and act to minimise the impact on our operations.




A reduction in the amount of plastic and an increase in the use of recyclable content in our packaging is critical to our future success.


Both consumer and customer responses to the environmental impact of plastic waste and emerging regulation by governments to tax or ban the use of certain plastics requires us to find solutions to reduce the amount of plastic we use; increase recycling post-consumer use; and to source recycled plastic for use in our packaging. We are also dependent on the work of our industry partners to create and improve recycling infrastructures throughout the globe.


Not only is there a risk around finding appropriate replacement materials, due to high demand the cost of recycled plastic or other alternative packaging materials could significantly increase in the foreseeable future and this could impact our business performance. We could also be exposed to higher costs as a result of taxes or fines if we are unable to comply with plastic regulations which would again impact our profitability and reputation.




We are committed to reducing the amount of post-consumer plastic packaging waste going to landfill. We have a clear strategy to use less plastic, better plastic (ie plastic with a lower environmental footprint) or to avoid plastic completely where a better alternative exists.


We aim to do this by developing a circular economy approach which involves: Redesigning products by considering modular packaging, design for disassembly and reassembly, wider use of refills, recycling and using post-consumer recycled materials in innovative ways; Driving systematic change in circular thinking at an industry level by working with partners such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Working with governments, industry partners, suppliers and consumers to raise awareness and find solutions to improve the recycling infrastructure for plastics; Working with consumers to help them understand disposal methods and collection facilities; Working on innovative solutions through new business models.


We also seek to provide greater transparency to the consumer on the amount of plastic in our products through on-pack labelling.





Successful customer relationships are vital to our business and continued growth.


Maintaining strong relationships with our existing customers and building relationships with new customers who have built new technology-enabled business models to serve changing shopper habits are necessary to ensure our brands are well presented to our consumers and available for purchase at all times.


The strength of our customer relationships also affects our ability to obtain pricing and competitive trade terms. Failure to maintain strong relationships with customers could negatively impact our terms of business with affected customers and reduce the availability of our products to consumers.




We build and maintain trading relationships across a broad spectrum of channels ranging from centrally managed multinational customers through to small traders accessed via distributors in many developing countries. We identify changing shopper habits and build relationships with new customers, such as those serving the e-commerce channel.


We develop joint business plans with our key customers that include detailed investment plans and customer service objectives and we regularly monitor progress.


We have developed capabilities for customer sales and outlet design which enable us to find new ways to improve customer performance and enhance our customer relationships. We invest in technology to

optimise order and stock management processes for our distributive trade customers.





A skilled workforce and agile ways of working are essential for the continued success of our business.


Our ability to attract, develop and retain the right number of appropriately qualified people is critical if we are to compete and grow effectively.


This is especially true in our key emerging markets where there can be a high level of competition for a limited talent pool. The loss of management or other key personnel or the inability to identify, attract and retain qualified personnel could make it difficult to manage the business and could adversely affect operations and financial results.




Resource committees have been established and implemented throughout our business. These committees have responsibility for identifying future skills and capability needs, developing career paths

and identifying the key talent and leaders of the future. We have an integrated management development process which includes regular performance reviews underpinned by a common set of leadership behaviours, skills and competencies.


We have targeted programmes to attract and retain top talent and we actively monitor our performance in retaining talent within Unilever.


We regularly review our ways of working to drive speed and simplicity through our business in order to remain agile and responsive to market place trends.





Our business depends on purchasing materials, efficient manufacturing and the timely distribution of products to our customers.


Our supply chain network is exposed to potentially adverse events such as physical disruptions, environmental and industrial accidents, trade restrictions or disruptions at a key supplier, which could impact our ability to deliver orders to our customers.


The cost of our products can be significantly affected by the cost of the underlying commodities and materials from which they are made. Fluctuations in these costs cannot always be passed on to the consumer through pricing.


Changes in trade relationships between Europe and the UK as a result of Brexit could give rise to both a supply and cost issue.




We have contingency plans designed to enable us to secure alternative key material supplies at short notice, to transfer or share production between manufacturing sites and to use substitute materials in our product formulations and recipes.


We have policies and procedures designed to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the products in our facilities, and to deal with major incidents including business continuity and disaster recovery.


Commodity price risk is actively managed through forward buying of traded commodities and other hedging mechanisms. Trends are monitored and modelled regularly and integrated into our forecasting process.


Contingency plans are being developed to minimise any disruption.




The quality and safety of our products are of paramount importance for our brands and our reputation.


The risk that raw materials are accidentally or maliciously contaminated throughout the supply chain or that other product defects occur due to human error, equipment failure or other factors cannot be excluded.




Our product quality processes and controls are comprehensive, from product design to customer shelf. They are verified annually and regularly monitored through performance indicators that drive improvement activities. Our key suppliers are externally certified and the quality of material received is regularly monitored to ensure that it meets the rigorous quality standards that our products require.


In the event of an incident relating to the safety of our consumers or the quality of our products, incident management teams are activated in the affected markets under the direction of our product quality, science and communications experts, to ensure timely and effective market place action.





Unilever's operations are increasingly dependent on IT systems and the management of information.


The cyber-attack threat of unauthorised access and misuse of sensitive information or disruption to operations continues to increase. Such an attack could inhibit our business operations in a number of ways, including disruption to sales, production and cash flows, ultimately impacting our results.


In addition, increasing digital interactions with customers, suppliers and consumers place ever greater emphasis on the need for secure and reliable IT systems and infrastructure and careful management of the information that is in our possession to ensure data privacy.




To reduce the impact of external cyber-attacks impacting our business we have firewalls and threat monitoring systems in place, complete with immediate response capabilities to mitigate identified threats. We also maintain a global system for the control and reporting of access to our critical IT systems. This is supported by an annual programme of testing of access controls.


We have policies covering the protection of both business and personal information, as well as the use of IT systems and applications by our employees. Our employees are trained to understand these requirements. We also have a set of IT security standards and closely monitor their operation to protect our systems and information.


Hardware that runs and manages core operating data is fully backed up with separate contingency systems to provide real-time backup operations should they ever be required.


We have standardised ways of hosting information on our public websites and have systems in place to monitor compliance with appropriate privacy laws and regulations, and with our own policies.





Successful execution of business transformation projects is key to delivering their intended business benefits and avoiding disruption to other business activities.


Unilever is continually engaged in major change projects, including acquisitions, disposals and organisational transformation, to drive continuous improvement in our business and to strengthen our portfolio and capabilities. A number of key projects were announced in 2017 to accelerate sustainable shareholder value creation. Failure to execute such initiatives successfully could result in under-delivery of the expected benefits and there could be a significant impact on the value of the business.


Continued digitalisation of our business models and processes together with enhancing data management capabilities is a critical part of our transformation. Failure to keep pace with such technological change would significantly impact our growth and profitability.





All acquisitions, disposals and global restructuring projects are sponsored by a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive. All such projects have steering groups in place led by a senior executive and regular progress updates are provided to the Unilever Leadership Executive.


A dedicated change programme management team has been established for the accelerating shareholder value creation transformation. ULE reviews progress on a monthly basis and the Boards receive regular updates to ensure that this important programme remains on track to deliver the expected transformation.


The digitalisation of our business is led by a dedicated team together with representatives from all parts of the business to ensure an integrated and holistic approach.


Sound project disciplines are used in all acquisitions, disposals and organisational transformation projects and these projects are resourced by dedicated and appropriately qualified personnel.


Unilever also monitors the volume of change programmes under way in an effort to stagger the impact on current operations and to ensure minimal disruption.





Unilever operates around the globe and is exposed to economic and political instability that may reduce consumer demand for our products, disrupt sales operations and/or impact the profitability of our operations.


Adverse economic conditions may affect one or more countries within a region, or may extend globally.


Government actions such as foreign exchange or price controls can impact on the growth and profitability of our local operations.


Unilever has more than half its turnover in emerging markets which can offer greater growth opportunities but also expose Unilever to related economic and political volatility.





The breadth of Unilever's portfolio and our geographic reach help to mitigate our exposure to any particular localised risk. Our flexible business model allows us to adapt our portfolio and respond quickly to develop new offerings that suit consumers' and customers' changing needs during economic downturns.


We regularly update our forecast of business results and cash flows and, where necessary, rebalance investment priorities.


We believe that many years of exposure to emerging markets have given us experience of operating and developing our business successfully during periods of economic and political volatility.




Unilever is exposed to a variety of external financial risks in relation to Treasury and Pensions.


The relative values of currencies can fluctuate widely and could have a significant impact on business results. Further, because Unilever consolidates its financial statements in euros it is subject to exchange risks associated with the translation of the underlying net assets and earnings of its foreign subsidiaries.


We are also subject to the imposition of exchange controls by individual countries which could limit our ability to import materials paid in foreign currency or to remit dividends to the parent company.


Unilever may face liquidity risk, ie difficulty in meeting its obligations, associated with its financial liabilities. A material and sustained shortfall in our cash flow could undermine Unilever's credit rating, impair investor confidence and also restrict Unilever's ability to raise funds.


We are exposed to market interest rate fluctuations on our floating rate debt. Increases in benchmark interest rates could increase the interest cost of our floating rate debt and increase the cost of future borrowings.


In times of financial market volatility, we are also potentially exposed to counter-party risks with banks, suppliers and customers.


Certain businesses have defined benefit pension plans, most now closed to new employees, which are exposed to movements in interest rates, fluctuating values of underlying investments and increased life expectancy. Changes in any or all of these inputs could potentially increase the cost to Unilever of funding the schemes and therefore have an adverse impact on profitability and cash flow.




Currency exposures are managed within prescribed limits and by

the use of forward foreign exchange contracts. Further, operating

companies borrow in local currency except where inhibited by local

regulations, lack of local liquidity or local market conditions. We also

hedge some of our exposures through the use of foreign currency borrowing or forward exchange contracts.


Our interest rate management approach aims to achieve an optimal balance between fixed and floating rate interest exposures on expected net debt.


We seek to manage our liquidity requirements by maintaining access to global debt markets through short-term and long-term debt programmes. In addition, we have high committed credit facilities for general corporate purposes.


Group treasury regularly monitors exposure to our banks, tightening counter-party limits where appropriate. Unilever actively manages its banking exposures on a daily basis.


We regularly assess and monitor counter-party risk in our customers and take appropriate action to manage our exposures.


Our pension investment standards require us to invest across a range of equities, bonds, property, alternative assets and cash such that the failure of any single investment will not have a material impact on the overall value of assets.


The majority of our assets, including those held in our 'pooled' investment vehicle, Univest, are managed by external fund managers and are regularly monitored by pension trustees and central pensions and investment teams.


Further information on financial instruments and capital and treasury risk management is included in note 16 on pages 110 to 115.





Acting in an ethical manner, consistent with the expectations of customers, consumers and other stakeholders, is essential for the protection of the reputation of Unilever and its brands.


Unilever's brands and reputation are valuable assets and the way in which we operate, contribute to society and engage with the world around us is always under scrutiny both internally and externally. Despite the commitment of Unilever to ethical business and the steps we take to adhere to this commitment, there remains a risk that activities or events cause us to fall short of our desired standard, resulting in damage to Unilever's corporate reputation and business results.





Our Code of Business Principles and our Code Policies govern the behaviour of our employees, suppliers, distributors and other third parties who work with us.


Our processes for identifying and resolving breaches of our Code of Business Principles and our Code Policies are clearly defined and regularly communicated throughout Unilever. Data relating to such breaches is reviewed by the Unilever Leadership Executive and by relevant Board Committees and helps to determine the allocation of resources for future policy development, process improvement, training and awareness initiatives.





Compliance with laws and regulations is an essential part of Unilever's business operations.


Unilever is subject to national and regional laws and regulations in such diverse areas as product safety, product claims, trademarks, copyright, patents, competition, employee health and safety, data privacy, the environment, corporate governance, listing and disclosure, employment and taxes.


Failure to comply with laws and regulations could expose Unilever to civil and/or criminal actions leading to damages, fines and criminal sanctions against us and/or our employees with possible consequences for our corporate reputation.


Changes to laws and regulations could have a material impact on the cost of doing business. Tax, in particular, is a complex area where laws and their interpretation are changing regularly, leading to the risk of unexpected tax exposures. International tax reform remains a key focus of attention with the OECD's Base Erosion & Profit Shifting project and further potential tax reform in the EU and Switzerland.




Unilever is committed to complying with the laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate. In specialist areas the relevant teams at global, regional or local levels are responsible for setting detailed standards and ensuring that all employees are aware of and comply with regulations and laws specific and relevant to their roles.


Our legal and regulatory specialists are heavily involved in monitoring and reviewing our practices to provide reasonable assurance that we remain aware of and in line with all relevant laws and legal obligations.


Our Global Tax Principles provide overarching governance and we have a Tax Risk Framework in place which sets out the controls established to assess and monitor tax risk for direct and indirect taxes. We monitor proposed changes in taxation legislation and ensure these are taken into account when we consider our future business plans.





The following related party balances existed with associate or joint venture businesses at 31 December:



Related party balances

€ million


€ million


Trading and other balances due from joint ventures



Trading and other balances due from/(to) associates





Sales by Unilever group companies to Unilever FIMA, LDA (formerly known as Unilever Jerónimo Martins) and Pepsi Lipton joint ventures were €107 million and €65 million in 2018 (2017: €117 million and €65 million) respectively. Sales from Unilever FIMA, LDA and from Pepsi Lipton joint ventures to Unilever group companies were €83 million and €51 million in 2018 (2017: €68 million and €65 million) respectively. Royalties and service fee paid by Unilever FIMA LDA to Unilever group companies were €16 million (2017: €17 million). Balances owed by/(to) Unilever FIMA, LDA and Pepsi Lipton joint ventures at 31 December 2018 were €127 million and €(6) million (2017: €130 million and €(6) million) respectively.



Langholm Capital Partners invests in private European companies with above-average longer-term growth prospects.


Langholm Capital II was launched in 2009. Unilever has invested €62 million in Langholm II, with an outstanding commitment at the end of 2018 of €13 million (2017: €17 million). During 2018, Unilever received €0.3 million (2017: €10 million) from its investment in Langholm Capital II.





Each of the Directors confirms that, to the best of his or her knowledge:


·      The Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2018, taken as a whole, is fair, balanced and understandable, and provides the information necessary for shareholders to assess the Group's position and performance, business model and strategy;

·      The financial statements which have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards as adopted by the EU and as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (in the case of the consolidated financial statements) and Financial Reporting Standard 101 'Reduced Disclosure Framework' (FRS 101) and UK accounting standards and Part 9 of Book 2 of the Dutch Civil Code (in the case of the NV parent company accounts), give a true and fair view of the assets, liabilities, financial position and profit or loss of the Group and the undertakings included in the consolidation taken as a whole; and

·      The Strategic Report includes a fair review of the development and performance of the business and the position of the Group and the undertakings included in the consolidation taken as a whole, together with a description of the principal risks and uncertainties that they face.





Marijn Dekkers

Youngme Moon

Graeme Pitkethly

Nils Andersen

Laura Cha

Vittorio Colao

Judith Hartmann

Andrea Jung

Mary Ma

Strive Masiyiwa

John Rishton

Feike Sijbesma


Vice-Chairman and Senior Independent Director

Chief Financial Officer

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director

Non-Executive Director



Safe Harbour


This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including 'forward-looking statements' within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as 'will', 'aim', 'expects', 'anticipates', 'intends', 'looks', 'believes', 'vision', or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the 'Group'). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.


Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever's global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever's ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever's investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth including to plastic packaging; the effect of climate change on Unilever's business; significant changes or deterioration in customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain and distribution; increases or volatility in the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic, social and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters.


These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.




11 March 2019.

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