- Unilever has reported a decline in underlying sales in the first half of 2020 as the spread of Covid-19 led to significant changes in the operating environment in its market, with sales in emerging markets down 1.9%.

In its half-year report, the group said underlying sales were down 0.1%, with a decline in volumes of 0.3% offset by price growth of 0.2%.

The company announced that sales in developed markets grew 2.4% during the period.

Following a strategic review of its tea business, Unilever announced it will retain the tea businesses in India and Indonesia and the partnership interests in the ready-to-drink tea joint ventures.

The company said that the potential of the balance of its tea brands and geographies and all tea estates 'can best be achieved as a separate entity' and that a process will begin to implement the separation, which is expected to conclude by the end of 2021.

The tea business that will be separated generated revenues of €2bn in 2019. During the first half, Unilever saw a 1.6% decrease in turnover, including a positive impact of 1.1% from acquisitions net of disposals and negative impact of 2.5% from currency.

Underlying operating profit excluding currency increased 3.8%, before a negative impact of 3.2% from currency.

Chief executive Alan Jope said: 'We have demonstrated the resilience of the business - in our portfolio, in a continued step-up in operational excellence, and in our financial position - and we have unlocked new levels of agility in responding to unprecedented fluctuations in demand.

'We have also taken action to strengthen the strategic future of the company by announcing proposals to unify our dual-headed legal structure, progressing the strategic review of our global tea business and making new commitments to help protect the climate and regenerate nature.' At 8:00am: [LON:ULVR] Unilever PLC share price was +88p at 4418p

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