Home cooks help Unilever beat forecasts

A boom in home eating helped Unilever beat forecasts in the first quarter.

Underlying sales rose 5.7% over the three months to the end of March.

Hellman's mayonnaise and Knorr soups were among brands to enjoy robust demand.

A strong recovery in China was another driver behind the gains.

Sales grew at a double-digit rate there, and in India.

Now the maker of Marmite spreads and Ben & Jerry's ice cream says it will buy back up to $3.6 billion of shares.

The firm says it's confident of hitting mid-term growth targets - which some analysts had previously doubted.

Unilever says it's also making good progress on splitting off its slower-growing Elida beauty and tea business.

That will mainly feature brands focused on Europe and North America, including Q-Tips and Timotei shampoo.

The new numbers come a week after arch-rival Nestle reported its biggest jump in quarterly sales for a decade.

Unilever shares were up around 3% by midmorning Thursday (April 29).