In the fourth quarter of 2018, sales dropped 5.3 percent to 12.15 billion euros ($13.9 billion).
As regards underlying sales growth, Unilever reported underlying sales increase of 2.9 percent, ending below analysts' average estimate of 3.5 percent, according to a consensus forecast provided by the firm. Former CEO Paul Polman was pushing for Unilever's headquarters to be moved to Amsterdam from London in light of Brexit. Underlying sales growth excluding the spreads business sold past year is up a creditable 3.1%.
Turnover was impacted by an adverse currency impact of 6.7% however, as well as hyperinflation in Argentina.
"We anticipate underlying sales growth will be in the lower half of our multi-year 3-5 per cent range, with continued improvement in underlying operating margin and another year of strong free cash flow", he explained.
"Looking forward, accelerating growth will be our number one priority".
The Anglo-Dutch group, which is working to move on from last year's botched plan to shift its main headquarters to the Netherlands, saw its shares fall almost 3 percent on Thursday as the sales miss overshadowed full-year earnings that were ahead of expectations.
Jope said it is holding a few weeks' extra stock of products such as Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Magnum bars ahead of the UK's planned departure from the European Union on 29 March. The company, which previous year scrapped plans to abandon its London headquarters, further warned that market conditions were likely to remain challenging.
Unilever's ice creams are produced on the Continent. The target calls for an operating margin of 20 percent. Overall, underlying sales in developed markets grew only 0.4 percent in the quarter.
It said it remained on track for its 2020 goals. "The deterioration in the conditions for consumers in Argentina resulted in a full year underlying volume decline of -10 per cent, which had a -30bps impact on Unilever volume growth", the company reported. Its full-year underlying earnings were 2.36 euros per share, topping analysts' estimates of 2.31 per share.