Unilever stock price post-earnings analysis – is it still a strong buy?

Unilever share price is up by nearer 8% today, becoming the best-performer in the FTSE 100. The shares are trading at 4,671p in London. Interestingly, the current price is above the consensus target of 4,520p by analysts, according to Marketbeat. In fact, it is just a week ago that UBS downgraded the firm to sell.

Unilever reports upbeat earnings

Unilever share price is having its best day in months as traders react to the company’s second quarter earnings. Its sales declined by just 0.3%, which was better than the 3.9% decline that analysts were expecting.

Sales in the United States rose by 7.3% in the first half, with volumes gaining by 20% in some segments. This increase was mostly because more people were staying at home, which increased demand for some of its products. Also, the need for hygiene led to higher demand for its hand sanitizers.

Unilever earnings
Unilever earnings

In total, the company made more than 25.7 billion euros while its operating margin increased to 18.2%. Its diluted earnings per share rose to 1.25 euros while its free cash flow increased to 2.9 billion from the previous 1.3 billion. It is also exploring options for its $3 billion a year tea business.

The firm said:

“Performance during the first half has shown the true strength of Unilever. 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.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased demand for most products sold by Unilever and other fast moving consumer goods products. This has led to a sharp increase in share prices of the biggest firms in the industry like Clorox, P&G, and Beiersdorf as shown below.

Unilever share price vs peers
Unilever share price vs peers

These companies have also proved naysayers wrong by booming while other small upstarts fail. For example, it was only a few months ago that Unbranded went out of business. The company was selling ethically-sourced products for only a few dollars.

However, the challenge for Unilever and other companies is whether this robust spending will continue as the economies reopen and retail sales slow.

Is it wise to invest in Unilever shares?

As shown above, Unilever share price has jumped by just 8% this year. It has jumped by 16% in the past three months alone. This has given the company a market cap of more than £121 billion and a PE ratio of about 18. This valuation is relatively higher than the median PE of S&P 500 companies, which have a PE of 15.

However, this valuation is relatively cheaper than other consumer staples that have an average PE of above 25. Meanwhile, analysts are torn about Unilever share price ideal target. For example, analysts at Jefferies have a target of 4,830p, which is almost 200 points above the current price.

Those at Barclays see the stock rising to 4370p. On the other hand, there are analysts like UBS and RBC that are bearish about the firm. Those at RBC see the shares falling to 2,900p.

Unilever analysts forecasts
Unilever share price forecast

Unilever share price technical analysis

The daily chart below shows that Unilever share price jumped to an intraday high of 4,703, which is along the 61.8% retracement level. The price is also above the 50-day and 100-day exponential moving averages. Also, it has formed an important gap as you can see below.

Therefore, in the near term, the price is likely to attempt to fill this gap. This could see it test the important resistance level at 4,500p. If this happens, Unilever share price will then continue rising.

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Unilever share price forecast

Unilever share price

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