FRANKFURT Germany's Beiersdorf (BEIG.DE), the maker of Nivea skin care creams, said it was extending its chief executive's contract after his turnaround strategy led the group to its highest level of underlying sales growth in five years.
Beiersdorf, which also makes La Prairie luxury face creams and Labello lip balms, reported 2013 sales of 6.14 billion euros ($8.4 billion), a 7.2 percent jump and its fastest growth since 2008.
Stefan Heidenreich took over as CEO in April 2012, at a time when the group was losing market share to rivals like L'Oreal (OREP.PA) and profit margins were falling. Under his leadership Beiersdorf introduced a new Nivea logo, focused on emerging markets, stripped out underperforming lines, and regained market share.
The company's 2013 sales growth was boosted by a surprisingly good performance in western Europe. Globally its consumer division, which accounts for 83 percent of turnover, saw sales rise 7 percent to 5.1 billion euros.
Beiersdorf also confirmed a forecast for its 2013 EBIT margin - earnings before interest and tax as a percentage of sales - to reach 13 percent, up from 12.2 percent in 2012.
On Thursday Heidenreich's contract was extended to the end of 2019 and analysts said his restructuring was paying off.
"The major take away from strong Q4 sales is that Beiersdorf continues to outgrow major peers in cosmetics," Commerzbank analyst Andreas Riemann wrote in a note.
Beiersdorf shares rose 2 percent, leading German blue chips .GDAXI higher.
The stock has long been underpinned by speculation that Beiersdorf could be a takeover target for a bigger company like Procter & Gamble (PG.N) - but according to Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood the contract extension suggests the Herz family, which controls just over 50 percent of the group, may not be willing to sell for some time.
Beiersdorf shares trade on 27.6 times predicted earnings, compared with an average of 17.1 for its peer group, according to Reuters data.
The company also makes industrial adhesives used in cars, smartphones and tablet computers, and sales at this division rose 8.4 percent in 2013, helped by demand in the electronics and automotive industries in the United States and Asia.
Beiersdorf, which competes in adhesives with local rival Henkel (HNKG_p.DE), will report full 2013 results on March 4.
(Editing by Sophie Walker)