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Unilever core brand strategy to boost earnings by 20%

LONDON - Unilever's core brand strategy appears to be paying off, with the consumer goods giant saying that it expects second-quarter earnings to rise by 20%.

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The Dutch conglomerate said in a statement today that it expects an increase in momentum of its leading brands -- which include Ben & Jerry's, Magnum ice cream, Dove soap and Lipton tea -- and will be upping its spend on advertising and marketing.

Unilever's roster of agencies in the UK includes HHCL & Partners, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Lowe & Partners, while media buying is handled by Initiative Media, which recently brokered a £320m, four-year-deal between Unilever and ITV.

"Our innovation programme for 2002 is at least as intensive as last year with a sustained rate in home and personal care, and a step-up in foods," the company said in the statement.

In 2001, Unilever unveiled its "Path to Growth" strategy, a five-year plan that involves cutting staff numbers by 25,000 and trimming Unilever's brand portfolio from 1,600 brand names to 400.

The money saved by the cost cutting will then be spent promoting Unilever's core, high-yield brands.

In today's statement, Unilever said that leading brands' sales will rise by around 4.5% for the second quarter of the year, while the underlying sales growth will be around 3% to 4%.

Shares in Unilever fell by €0.70 to trade at €63.35 on the Amsterdam stock exchange this afternoon.

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