Reckitt cleans up in health and hygiene market

Gaviscon was a major seller for Reckitt Benckiser. Picture: PA
Gaviscon was a major seller for Reckitt Benckiser. Picture: PA
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COLD and flu triggered good business for Nurofen-maker Reckitt Benckiser, with sales of its remedies helping to drive a better-than-expected performance in 2012.

A particularly-intense flu season in North America boosted the Slough-based company’s sales of Strepsils throat lozenges and Mucinex, a popular brand of decongestant in the US, in the final quarter of the year.

Chief executive Rakesh Kapoor said: “The cold and flu season was a good one, the buying was very good and clearly there has been some benefit from this.”

Durex condoms and heartburn remedy Gaviscon also proved popular across all its markets last year.

Full-year pre-tax profits at the FTSE 100 giant rose to £2.4 billion from £2.3bn, on revenues up 1 per cent to £9.6bn.

But the company unveiled a shift in plans to focus on its health and hygiene products, including Durex and its Dettol disinfectant range, and away from its roots in laundry detergents and air fresheners, while also pushing further into its emerging markets in South American and China.

At the end of last year, Reckitt saw off competition from Germany’s Bayer to secure US vitamin maker Schiff Nutrition for $1.4bn (£898.5m), gaining access to the vitamin and supplement market for the first time.

Kapoor revealed yesterday that Reckitt had also bought a “modest-sized” traditional Chinese medicine firm, Golong Medicine, without giving financial details.

Analysts at Shore Capital noted that the company proposed a “very healthy” 11 per cent increase in the final dividend to 78p, which results in a full-year payment of 134p, a 7 per cent increase.