THE HAGUE, Netherlands— Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever said Thursday its sales declined in the third quarter, even though consumers targeted large volumes of home-based products as the coronavirus lockdown continued in many countries.
Headquartered in both London and Rotterdam, the group said third-quarter sales amounted to 12.9 billion euros ($15.2 billion), a decline of 2.4 percent from the same period last year, with currency fluctuations also negatively impacting results.
"COVID-19 continues to influence consumer behaviors and channel dynamics in our markets," Unilever said in a statement.
Many countries are imposing stricter anti-coronavirus rules as new cases surge, particularly in Europe, where Ireland has become the first country to enter a second national lockdown and Germany's daily cases leapt to a record high on Thursday.
Unilever said that in its North American market alone, sales were up 9.1 percent at 2.5 billion euros, driven by booming demand for food at home.
Overall demand for hand cleaners also remained high, but dipped from the second quarter, while household cleaning products continued to sell well to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Unilever said its Ben&Jerry's and Magnum ice creams notched up good sales for home consumption, which "more than offset the decline in out-of-home ice cream sales."
The food services division, which specializes in the hospitality sector, saw sales decline by over 20 percent, Unilever said.
"However, trends continue to improve with China now returning to growth," the group noted.
Unilever said plans to merge its Dutch and British entities into a single London-based company remained on track with Dutch shareholders overwhelmingly voting in favor of the move last month.
The proposal, approved by 99.42 percent in an extraordinary online meeting is the first step towards ending the company's 90-year-old double-headed structure.
British courts are to hold a hearing early next month and must formally approve the move, Unilever said.
Unilever announced the idea to become a single British-based entity called Unilever PLC in June, saying it would make it more responsive to challenges including the coronavirus pandemic.
Investors seemed disappointed by the third-quarter figures, with Unilever's share price dipping slightly in early trade on Amsterdam's main AEX stock index, continuing a downward trend for the week.