Belfast Telegraph

Buoyant sales figures for Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser

Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser shrugged off tough trading to cheer rising sales thanks to a boost from new products including an electronic nail file.

The Slough-based firm saw like-for-like sales come in ahead of expectations, up 5% in the first quarter, following a "good" performance from healthcare products Gaviscon and Strepsils.

The group said Europe and North America like-for-like sales stepped up 3%, driven in part by the launch of new products from footwear brands Amope and Scholl Innovations.

But it said its US and Russian business had been hit after retailers reduced their stock following a "weaker flu season".

Shares rose just under 1%, as the group said it remained on track to hit full-year target of 4% to 5% like-for-like net revenue growth.

The update comes after it was revealed earlier this month that chief executive Rakesh Kapoor saw his pay almost double to £ 23 million last year after a long-term incentive payout.

Mr Kapoor said the group had seen a "good start" to the year in the face of "challenging market conditions".

He added: " We are pleased to see growth across both developed and developing markets as we pursue our strategy of focusing on the health and hygiene powerbrands in our key powermarkets, supported by continued investment in innovation.

"Our consumer health brands have again outperformed. In hygiene, the performance of the brands was variable. We are on track to achieve our full year net revenue and operating margin targets."

Like-for-like sale rose 10% in its healthcare division, bolstered by "good" performances from Durex, Gaviscon and Strepsils.

It was also buoyed by a 10% rise in like-for-like sales in developing markets, as cleaning products Harpic and Dettol growth in India.

The focus is likely to sharpen on Mr Kapoor's pay when the group holds its annual general meeting on May 5.

It comes after the debate over executive pay was reignited last week when shareholders voted to reject oil giant BP's remuneration report, which included a pay deal of 19.6 million dollars (£13.8 million) for chief executive Bob Dudley.

Analysts at Liberum said: "H ealth sales growth remains robust despite retailer destocking and a late start to the cold and flu season in the US and Russia.

"Developing markets overall remain resilient particularly in key markets such as China, India and Turkey."