Updates from Unilever, BAT and Croda

A small bump for the FTSE 100: the index climbed almost 26 points yesterday to 6,431, up 0.40%. Decent sales numbers from Standard Life hauled it +8.00% ahead while Centrica saw the biggest fall, down -4.12%.

Overnight, a hike in oil prices energised some Asian stocks with the Nikkei 225 rising +0.82% to 13,956 and the Hang Seng climbing +1.08% to 22,422. %VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Several FTSE 100 corporate heavyweight updates this morning. We start with Bovril-to-Radox-to-Persil maker Unilever and underlying sales growth of +4.9% overall with emerging markets up +10.4% in the first quarter of 2013. Underlying volume growth climbs +2.2% while pricing climbs +2.6%. Turnover increased +0.2% to €12.2 billion including a negative currency impact of -3.5%.

Unilever's quarterly dividend is up +10.7% to €0.2690. Developed markets growth though remains sluggish. Europe faced a particularly strong prior year in comparison says Unilever and whilst overall performance was solid, reported growth was held back by the slow start to the ice cream season.

"Brands like Lifebuoy, Dove, Domestos, Knorr and Signal that have made sustainability central to their brand proposition continue to perform well," says Unilever boss Paul Polman. "We remain focused on achieving another year of profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement."

Next, a quarterly update from British American Tobacco. The maker of Dunhill and Pall Mall cigarettes claims +5% revenue growth at constant rates of exchange with revenue growth of +1%; volumes from subsidiaries decreased -3.7% to 160 billion, with a -3.4% cut for total tobacco volumes.

BAT's main four ciggy brands saw volumes climb +1%, with market share growing robustly in the Group's Top 40 markets. Dunhill volumes increased +5%, with good growth in Indonesia, the Middle East and South Korea, partially offset by declines in Brazil. Kent was -7% lower, driven by market dips in Russia and Japan.

"The pricing environment," says BAT, "remains strong despite difficult trading conditions in many parts of the world, notably southern Europe. If current exchange rates persist for the rest of the year, the currency headwind that adversely impacted the quarter will reverse."

Finally, chemicals maker Croda and an update on progress since January. Pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 2013 were up +6.5% to £65.1m (2012: £61.1m). Croda says this was achieved against a particularly strong performance in the same period in 2012, and despite the adverse impact of an earlier Easter this year.

Group turnover grew +0.4% to £283.1m (2012: £281.9m). Consumer Care sales were broadly stable at £158.4m (2012: £159.1m), with Crop Care weaker due to the poor weather experienced in a number of regions throughout the period. Personal Care and Health Care sales were flat.

"The Board believes that the Q1 result represents a solid start to the year. The outlook provided in February is unchanged and we expect to report further progress in 2013."

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