It gives me great pleasure to share with you an update on the overall performance ofyour Company in 2016-17. It was yet another difficult year for the global economycharacterised by low growth and geopolitical uncertainties. In India rural demandcontinued to be sluggish in the early part of the year on the back of two consecutive poormonsoons.The overall market showed signs of recovery in the latter half of the year butfaced a temporary slowdown in November due to demonetisation.
In this challenging business environment Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) delivered aresilient performance in 2016-17. This was enabled by our 4G model of growth - consistentcompetitive profitable and responsible growth. We believe that this model particularlyin times of uncertainty is in the best long-term interest of all our stakeholders and agood indication of a robust strategy.
In the year under review our Domestic Consumer business grew 4% with 1% underlyingvolume growth. EBITDA margin expanded by 38 bps and saw an improvement for the sixthconsecutive year. Profit after tax before exceptional items PAT (bei) grew by 3% to Rs.4247 Crores and Net Profit at Rs. 4490 Crores was up 9%. The strong track record of cashgeneration was sustained. The Board of Directors have proposed a final dividend of Rs. 10per share subject to the approval of the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.Together with an interim dividend of Rs. 7 per share the total dividend for the financialyear ended 31st March 2017 amounts to Rs. 17 per share.
Each of our businesses had an important role to play in delivering these strongresults. In Home Care growth was driven by premium Fabric Wash as Surf excel sustainedits volume-led growth momentum and remains the biggest brand in the Company portfolio. Vimliquid continued to drive market development of the emerging premium household cleaningsegment. The Water portfolio was expanded with the launch of the Reverse Osmosis (RO)range and was well-received by consumers.
The Personal Care business continued to lead trends across all categories with aparticularly strong performance in Hair Care and Lakm colour cosmetics. In addition todriving our core business we strengthened our presence in fast-growing segments of themarket. We led the premiumisation of the Skin Care market with new launches on all ourskin brands Lakm Fair & Lovely and Pond's. In the growing naturals'segment we launched a new and expanded range of authentic Ayurvedic Personal Careproducts under the LEVER Ayush brand name. Similarly we entered the Baby segment with thelaunch of Baby Dove.
Our Foods business continued its focus on strong market building initiatives. To extendour appeal to young adults Kissan launched a new range of khatta meetha' jams inBerry Strawberry and Orange flavours. Knorr expanded its international range with thelaunch of Italian Mushroom soup Hong Kong Manchow Noodles soup and Shanghai Hot &Sour Chicken soup.
In the Refreshments category Tea sustained broad-based growth by differentiallyleveraging its portfolio across the country. Coffee continued on its premiumisation agendawith BRU while Ice Creams and Frozen Desserts exited the year with robust innovation ledgrowth.
One of the major strengths of your Company is the relentless focus on execution andproductivity and this helped us to sustain brand investments at competitive levels whilesignificantly improving margins. Our Winning in Many Indias' (WIMI) organisationalinitiative has made us even more agile and responsive to a rapidly evolving marketplacewith intensified competition channel fragmentation and an increasingly segmented consumerbase.
Technology and mobile connectivity are rapidly changing consumer behaviour and businessprocesses. We continued to lead the digital transformation within our organisation andleverage our IT capabilities to drive competitive advantage. We grew strongly in the fastemerging e-commerce channel even as we adopted sophisticated IT solutions to improve ourreach and service to millions of small retailers across the length and breadth of India.Technology is also enabling us to better understand our consumers. For instance ourConsumer and Market Insights group has created a People Data Centre that analyses trendsfrom social media consumer care-lines and digital marketing to turn millions ofconversations' into business decisions that optimise sales and revenue.
Our Sales and Marketing initiatives were ably supported by our world-class SupplyChain. In 2016 we set up a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Doom DoomaAssam. This project christened Project Rhino' went from concept to commissioningin just ten months and is an excellent example of operational excellence and a relentlessbias for action.
Even as we expand our operations we remain equally committed to the UnileverSustainable Living Plan (USLP) and driving our environmental and social agenda through ourbrands and corporate actions. Lifebuoy Domex and Pureit continued to lead our initiativesin the areas of hygiene sanitation and safe drinking water. Through our SwachhAadat Swachh Bharat' programme we supported the Indian government's Swachh BharatAbhiyan (Clean India Mission) and promoted good health and hygiene practices incommunities across the country. Our efforts in the area of health and well-being reachedover 130 million people by the end of 2016.
In line with our USLP goals we took significant steps to further reduce waste waterconsumption and energy usage in our factories and offices. The share of renewable energyused by us increased to 28% through several innovative initiatives such as converting ouragricultural process waste into consumable fuel. In our Sumerpur unit we are using solarenergy that meets 80% of power requirement for most of the daylight hours. This increasein use of renewable energy and reduction in energy consumption has helped in reducing thecarbon foot-print of our manufacturing locations by 13% over the previous year. Equallyinitiatives such as reuse of treated effluent water and rain water utilisation have helpedin lowering water consumption across our factories by 9% over the previous year. In thelast five years per tonne of production our energy consumption has reduced by over 30%and water consumption has reduced by 40%.
None of these achievements would have been possible without the passion and commitmentof our employees - our biggest asset. During 2016 we launched a major initiative Connected 4 Growth' which strives to further empower our people and creates anorganisation that is even more consumer and customer-centric faster and more efficient.
I am pleased to report that our focus on Human Resources development yet againensured that we are chosen as the No. 1 Employer of Choice' by students acrosspremier B-schools in the Nielsen survey. We have been ranked in the Top 10 by TheBest Companies for Women in India' (BCWI) Study 2016. These are all recognitions of ourability to attract and retain the best talent and our commitment to a diverse andinclusive work culture.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every employee as well as thosewho work with us across the value chain for their unstinting support and hard work in theservice of our Company. I would also like to thank you our shareholders for yourcontinued trust in the business.