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PZ Cussons profits lather up as swine flu epidemic fuels hygiene awareness

IMPERIAL Leather soap maker PZ Cussons yesterday said it was cleaning up in the swine flu epidemic, reporting a 16 per cent jump in annual pre-tax profits.<br /><br />The group yesterday reported its Carex range of waterless antibacterial hand gels were &ldquo;performing particularly well&rdquo; in &ldquo;a climate where there is additional consumer focus on hand hygiene&rdquo;. <br /><br />The group yesterday said Carex sales were surging by up to 200 per cent.<br /><br />In the UK, like-for-like sales, (excluding The Sanctuary business which it bought for &pound;75m in 2008), rose 7.5 per cent versus the prior year, boosting group profits to &pound;88.8m. Analysts had been expecting profits of &pound;84-&pound;87m. Total group sales rose 27 per cent to &pound;838.1m. The group said its Sanctuary bathing products range and female-only spa was still performing well, despite the recession.<br /><br />Finance director Brandon Leigh yesterday said the group&rsquo;s beauty products were stealing market share as people traded down to cheaper pampering treats. The dividend is up 12 per cent to 5.27p for the year.