Reckitt profit rises despite Becht’s exit

RECKITT Benckiser beat first-quarter earnings forecasts – boosted by its recent SSL acquisition – after last week’s shock news that chief executive Bart Becht was to retire sent its shares tumbling.

The British maker of Cillit Bang cleaners and Nurofen painkillers, which took over Durex condoms and Scholl sandals maker SSL late last year, said it was sticking to its financial goals for 2011 as it aimed to outperform its markets.

Reckitt’s pre-tax profit rose 4.7 per cent to £486m in the first three months of 2011.

Net revenues in the first-quarter were up by 14 per cent from the same period the previous year at £2.28bn.

Sales in developing markets rose 14 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Reckitt is looking to offset increased costs for inputs such as crude oil, plastics, palm oil and rubber with price rises and cost savings, and looks for growth in emerging markets as it faces tough markets in Europe and North America, which account for nearly two-thirds of group sales.

“Reckitt Benckiser got off to a strong start in the first-quarter of 2011,” said Becht in a results statement yesterday.

The group, which also makes Air Wick air fresheners, Vanish fabric cleaners and Finish dishwasher products, reported that first-quarter earnings rose ten per cent to 52.2p a share, beating a company-compiled consensus of 51.8p.

Reckitt reiterated its 2011 goals to see underlying sales rise to four per cent and profit growth above that from its businesses, excluding SSL but including its Suboxone drugs unit. First-quarter sales and profit on this basis rose five and ten per cent respectively.