Unilever slammed over £750m Russia sales bonanza


Unilever hit over £750 million Russia sales bonanza: British firm behind Marmite and Cornetto accused of making ‘blood money’

The British company behind Marmite and Cornetto was accused last night of making ‘blood money’ after it racked up three-quarters of a billion pounds in sales in Russia.

Unilever, whose brands also include Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, has sparked outrage by refusing to leave the country in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

In a stellar run of results yesterday, the company reported sales of £750 million in Russia for 2022 and profits of £147 million.

‘Blood money’: Unilever, led by boss Alan Jope (pictured), reported £750m in Russia sales for 2022 and profits of £147m in a mammoth set of results yesterday

Activists said the amount Unilever made from Russia “exceeds our worst fears” and called the sale “blood money”.

It’s a great shame for a company known for trying to polish its ‘woke’ credentials.

US anti-corruption activist Bill Browder said: “Unilever management has blood on its hands by taking advantage of the Russian economy. History will judge this decision very badly.’

Unilever, whose catalog of household items also includes bleach from Domestos and ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, defended its position.

Chief executive Alan Jope argued that leaving Russia was “not easy” and that it was not trying to protect commercial interests by staying.

The 60-year-old, who will step down in July, said that if he quits, Unilever’s operations will fall into the hands of Vladimir Putin and its assets and brands will be “appropriated by the Russian state.”

He also said it would be “not right” to abandon 3,500 employees, adding that the company supports efforts to help the suffering in Ukraine “to the utmost”, for example through donations to UNICEF.

However, it would “continue to assess and disclose the financial implications of the conflict.”

But the Moral Rating Agency, a lobby group that monitors Western companies operating in Russia, called on Unilever to “move in the moral direction and side with democracy and civilisation.”

After estimating last week that Unilever made £556 million in sales in Russia last year, the agency’s founder, Mark Dixon, said: ‘Unilever’s blood money exceeds our worst fears. They cash in in Russia and draw a snook at all civilized people.

“Unilever should no longer hide behind its balance sheet and excuses to face the reality that selling an ice cream can enable Putin to pay for a bullet.”

Labor MP Chris Bryant said: ‘I can’t believe the apologies. It’s as if they’ve completely lost their sense of decency, or they’re happy to remain complicit in the war in Russia.”

In March, Unilever promised to create an economic fence around the country and to suspend all imports and exports of its products to and from Russia.

It pledged to sell only locally made “essential food and hygiene products” in Russia. It has since been revealed that it still sells Magnums and Cornettos in Russia.

When asked about Ukraine, Jope said, “Of course we absolutely condemn the war in Ukraine as a cruel, senseless, unnecessary act of the Russian state.”

And there are more price hikes to come

Unilever, producer of Magnum ice cream, increased prices by an average of 11.3% last year

Unilever, producer of Magnum ice cream, increased prices by an average of 11.3% last year

Unilever warned that the price hikes are not over, even as it rakes in more than £1bn a week.

The FTSE 100 company increased prices by an average of 11.3 percent last year. A 400 gram jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise is up 42 percent and a six-pack of Dove soap is up 21 percent to £3.50.

The increases helped Unilever bring in £53.2bn by 2022 – up 14.5 per cent on a year earlier – while profits rose 25 per cent to £7.3bn. Bosses warned that worse was to come.

“We’re probably past peak inflation, but we’re not at peak prices yet,” said CEO Alan Jope. Finance chief Graeme Pitkethly stressed that overall increases would be at a “slower pace” this year than in 2022.

Jope denied that it was “profiting” by using the inflation crisis as a cover to drive up prices.

He said, “Most retailers want to offer the best possible value.”

While prices rose by 11.3 percent, sales volumes fell by 2.1 percent. In the fourth quarter, prices increased by 13.3 percent while volumes fell by 3.6 percent.

Unilever said it was optimistic sales volumes would recover as inflation eases. Jope said the company has passed on only 75 percent of the cost inflation it felt to customers.