Dove soap and Flora maker Unilever boosted confidence in its prospects today by revealing a rebound in emerging markets.

The Anglo-Dutch company's shares opened more than 3% higher after underlying sales growth of 4.1% for the final three months of the year came in slightly better than City expectations.

It represented an improvement on the 3.2% rise of the previous quarter, which was Unilever's weakest perfomance in four years.

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Emerging markets, which account for more than half of Unilever's revenues, have been under pressure due to currency weakness in countries such as Brazil and India.

However, the figure for the fourth quarter jumped to 8.4% as Unilever posted overall revenues of 11.8 billion euros (£9.7 billion) for the three month period, despite subdued European markets.

In the UK, the company said it achieved its 25th successive quarter of growth but this was offset by tougher conditions in spreads in Germany and the Netherlands.

Across the year, group underlying sales were up 4.3%, with price changes accounting for 1.8% of the gain. Net profits were 9% higher at 5.3 billion euros (£4.4 billion).

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: "Investors appear to be breathing a sigh of relief.

"Following a disappointing third quarter, fourth quarter sales have exceeded forecasts. Importantly, sales in emerging markets have seen a rebound, with Russia, Turkey, China and Indonesia notable performers."