British-Dutch fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturer Unilever is planning to invest $260m in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region in 2012.

“We will invest about $260m in the Mena region to develop our business lines and our infrastructure,” said Sanjiv Mehta, chairman of Unilever’s Mena operations, while speaking on the sidelines of the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh on 23 January.

About 55 per cent of Unilever’s turnover comes from the emerging markets and Saudi Arabia is Unilever’s biggest market in the region. The company has yet to release its 2011 annual results, but regional turnover in 2010 was about $1.4bn.

According to Mehta, the company has close to 40 per cent of the region’s FMCG market share and it is looking to grow further this year.

“Over the past five years and even since 2010, we have had double-digit growth. There has been a slight slowdown over the past year. The Arab Spring did impact us. When there is a crisis, it impacts consumer confidence, but we deal in everyday necessities and so it was short-lived,” says Mehta.

Unilever produces some of the most recognisable brands in the region including Lipton tea, which according to Mehta, accounts for every two out of three cups of tea consumed in the GCC.