Shareholders of Unilever Plc have expressed their displeasure over the seemingly non-impressive financial result the company posted in 2014, stressing the need for management of company to strive to cut rising operational cost.

They made this known at the company’s 90th Annual General Meeting held in Lagos, yesterday.

A shareholder, Mrs. Owolabi Oluremi wondered why Unilever operating cost is on the increase, but revenue went southward.

She advised the management of the company to look into trade receivable that increased by 55 per cent and fashion out ways of cutting cost.

Unilever audited financial result showed that in 2014, the company spent N15,561,139,000 as operating expenses against N11,764,952,000 in 2013; other income expenses was N5.59 million (2013: N23.59million) and net finance cost went up from N997,361,000 in 2013 to N1,741,509,000 last year.

The company’s revenue was down by 7 per cent from N60,004,119,000 in 2013 to N55,754,309,000 in 2014 and its profit before tax stood at N2,412,343,000 against N4,724,429,000 recorded the previous year.

The chairman of the Ibadan Shareholders Association, Chief Fola Abodunrin was worried that the company’s revenue has been stagnant in the last five years.

“Why has the management of the Unilever has not been able to improve on the company’s revenue with cost going up by 92 per cent?” he queried.

He also expressed concern over the company’s high loan profile. Unilever loans and borrowings climbed up to N13, 430,156 in 2014 from N4, 448,576,000 in 2013.

The Managing Director of the conglomerate, Mr. Yaw Nsarkoh, attributed the performance of the company to its difficult operating environment, saying the problem was not peculiar to Unilever as its competitors also suffered similar fate.

He disclosed that the company was already carrying out rationalization exercise in order to reduce its operating cost.

The Unilever boss noted that the company is committed to local manufacturing, as 80 per cent its products are produced in Nigeria.

He added that the company’s first quarter result has shown that there are signs of recovery as it was impressive.

The chairman of the company, the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty NNaemeka Achebe opined that the tough business decisions the management undertook last year have made Unilever to be well placed to thrive within the ever increasing volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous operating business environment that the company went through in 2014.

“Deliberate re-focus on route to market, consumer needs and aspirations, product quality, capacity expansion and zero business waste are already producing a sturdier business model which enables us to grow sustainably into the future,” he explained.

He further stated that Unilever engaged in rationalization of trade inventories, introduced one-off pressures to its in-year performance as part of its route to market transformation strategy.

“The short term impact of our deliberate transformation actions is a 7 per cent decline in revenue, an operating margin of 8 per cent (2013: 13 per cent) and a drop in earnings per share from N1.25k in 2013 to N.64k. In the medium to long term, however, we anticipant an upward trend in all critical parameters,” he added.

The Obi said projected that business will be more daunting this year if the collapse of crude oil prices, foreign exchange volatility and the unstable political instability continue.

The chairman claimed that the company would be more aggressive about driving costs, and actively find savings through its value chain.

HRH Achebe, Senate Udoma Udoma, Mr. Ologbara Pinnick and Mr. Atedo Peterside, who were due for retirement by rotation, were reelected as non-executive directors by shareholders.