Unilever posts rising 2017 profits of 6.5b euros
The Hague: Food and consumer products giant Unilever Thursday posted soaring 2017 profits of €6.5 billion ($8.05 billion), after a year of “major change” when it spurned a Kraft Heinz takeover bid. Net profit leapt 16.9 per cent on sales of €53.7 billion, up 1.9 per cent year-on-year, which chief executive Paul Polman said “demonstrates the progress we have made in transforming Unilever into a more resilient and more agile business”.

“We have delivered a good all-round performance with competitive growth,” he said in a statement.

The Rotterdam-based company, which owns more than 400 household brands including Dove, Knorr soups, Lipton, Magnum and Marmite, said on Thursday that after agreeing “to sell our global spreads business ... we expect to exit around the middle of 2018”.

Excluding spreads, sales reached €50.7 billion, an increase of 2.2 per cent over the previous 12 months.

Facebook booming even as time spent on it drops
San Francisco: Facebook on Wednesday reported a big jump in profits even though people are spending less time on the world’s biggest social network.

The company said its priority is to encourage personal interaction among users, rather than simply boost the number of hours they spend on Facebook.

Facebook said that profit in the final three months of last year climbed 20 per cent to $4.26 billion as both ad revenue and ranks of members grew. Revenue in the quarter leapt 47 per cent to nearly $13 billion, but expenses also rose as its ranks of employees grew to finish the year at 25,105 workers. The company said the number of monthly active users hit 2.13 billion in the past quarter, up 14 per cent from a year ago.

Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said changes enacted by Facebook cut time spent on the site by some 50 million hours per day. But Facebook’s chief operating officer argued that having users engage more with friends’ posts could lead to further financial opportunities for the company.

Microsoft reports loss on tax charge
Bengaluru: Microsoft Corp reported a quarterly loss on Wednesday, hurt by a $13.8 billion charge related to US tax reform. The company posted a net loss of $6.30 billion, or 82 cents per share, in the second quarter ended December 31, compared to a profit of $6.27 billion, or 80 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue climbed 12 per cent to $28.92 billion, including 98 per cent growth in Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product which competes with rivals from Amazon.com Inc, IBM and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Nokia widens losses in 2017
Helsinki: Nokia said Thursday that its net loss widened in 2017, but that underlying profits improved, enabling the Finnish mobile phone maker to raise its forecasts for the coming years as operators prepare to roll out new lightning-fast 5G technology. Nokia said in a statement that it booked a full-year after-tax loss of €1.49 billion ($1.8 billion) last year, nearly double the loss of €751 million in 2016. Revenues slipped by two per cent to €23.1 billion. But at an underlying level, Nokia was back in the black, turning in an operating profit of €16 million, compared with a loss of €1.1 billion a year earlier. Chief executive Rajeev Suri said he was “pleased that Nokia ended 2017 with a strong fourth quarter.”

Qualcomm reports quarterly loss on $6b tax charge
Bengaluru, San Francisco: Qualcomm Inc on Wednesday reported a loss for the first fiscal quarter as the chipmaker took a $6 billion one-time charge because of new US tax laws. Net loss attributable to Qualcomm was $5.95 billion or $4.03 per share in the quarter ended Dec. 24, compared to a profit of $682 million or 46 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.2 per cent to $6.07 billion. The results come as Qualcomm tries to fend off a $103 billion takeover bid by Broadcom and close its long-pending deal to buy automotive chip maker NXP Semiconductors.

Lenovo swings to third quarter loss on US tax reform
Hong Kong: Chinese personal computer maker Lenovo Group swung to a loss in the third quarter from a year-ago profit, hurt mainly by a one-off charge of $400 million resulting from a US tax reform, and said the short-term outlook was challenging. Tax reforms signed into law in December lower the income tax rate for US firms to 21 per cent from 35 per cent. A unit of Legend Holdings, Lenovo reported a loss of $289 million for the three months to December, versus a $98 million profit a year ago. It had in January said it expected to incur a one-off charge for the nine months ended in December due to a reassessment of US deferred tax assets. The company’s revenue for the quarter was $12.94 billion, up slightly from $12.17 billion a year ago.

Daimler posts record profits amid row over monkey tests
Frankfurt: German luxury carmaker Daimler on Thursday announced record profits for 2017 on the back of strong SUV and truck sales, but the results were overshadowed by the firm’s connection to controversial diesel exhaust tests on monkeys. Daimler said net profits soared by 24 per cent last year to €10.9 billion ($13.5 billion), while revenues were up seven per cent to 164 billion, in line with analyst expectations. Underlying, or operating, profits were up 14 per cent to €14.7 billion, the company said, adding that it would raise dividends to an all-time high of €3.65 per share compared with €3.25 per share for 2016. “The Daimler workforce has once again succeeded in breaking the records set in the previous year,” chief executive Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.

US helps shore up Swiss drugs maker Roche in 2017
Geneva: Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche saw a modest 3 per cent rise in its underlying profits last year, largely as a result of a strong performance in the United States. Roche, which does not break out its fourth-quarter results, also projected sales growth in the high single-digits in percentage points in 2018.

The Basel-based company, which employs 94,000 worldwide, said core operating profit rose to 19.01 billion Swiss francs ($20.4 billion) in 2017, up from 18.42 billion francs a year earlier. Net profit fell 9 per cent to 8.825 billion francs as a result of a series of charges.

Roche said recently launched multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus, cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq and lung cancer treatment Alecensa contributed 1.4 billion francs in new sales, or nearly two-thirds of growth in the pharmaceuticals division.