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Unilever to revamp portfolio

Polman: New game plan

London, Dec. 6 (Reuters): Consumer products giant Unilever Plc aims to cut the number of individual products it sells by 30 per cent by the end of 2014 to become more efficient and navigate a global economic slowdown it admits it was slow to confront.

The Anglo-Dutch maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lipton tea and Dove soap also said on Thursday it was cutting about 2,000 jobs and would continue to adjust its portfolio.

“The global economy has calibrated down about 1-1.5 per cent and we probably should’ve done a better job seeing it coming,” said Unilever chief executive officer Paul Polman in a presentation in London that was broadcast over the Internet.

“We’re using that opportunity to step up the performance and drive new energy into the organisation.”

In October, Unilever posted slower sales growth for the third quarter after demand was hurt by the devaluation of some emerging market currencies and aggressive promotions in the United States by rival Procter & Gamble Co.

“We lost our competitiveness,” Polman said.

Unilever intends to save 500 million euros next year after cutting about 2,000 jobs this year, improving its supply chain and making various processes more efficient.

Focus on larger brands

Unilever is shifting more of its focus to its larger brands, including the 15 that each generate over 1 billion euros in annual revenue. Polman said it will continue to sell non-core, underperforming brands and buy attractive bolt-on brands.

“The overall portfolio is perhaps not as robust yet as some of our competitors, but you have to deal with the deck of cards you’ve been given,” Polman said.

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