* Q1 like-for-like sales, ex-pharma, up 4 pct vs fcast 3.8
* Maintains 2012 targets for sales growth and profit margins
* Sees boost from strong emerging markets and new products
* Shares up 0.9 percent
By David Jones
LONDON, May 1 British consumer goods group
Reckitt Benckiser reported a slightly better than
expected 4 percent rise in underlying first-quarter sales on
Tuesday as a new focus on its top brands and fastest growing
markets started to pay off.
New chief executive Rakesh Kapoor, who took over last
September after Bart Becht's shock decision to retire, said the
group's results were driven by strong emerging market growth and
success with a string of new products.
"These results give us the confidence to reiterate our 2012
target of like-for-like net revenue growth of 200 basis points
above our market growth rate of 1-2 percent. We also expect to
maintain full-year operating margins," he said in a statement.
The maker of Nurofen painkillers and Cillit Bang cleaners
reported the 4 percent rise in like-for-like first-quarter sales
when stripping out its Suboxone pharmaceuticals unit, slightly
ahead of a company-compiled forecast for a 3.8 percent rise.
Kapoor said strong emerging market growth was tempered by a
"satisfactory" performance in Europe and North America with
sales there down 2 percent, while growth was helped by new
products like Veet easy wax roll-on hair remover and Lysol
no-touch kitchen system disinfectant.
Reckitt shares were 0.9 percent higher at 3,618 pence by
1210 GMT in a slightly firmer UK market. They have slowly
recovered since Becht's sudden announcement of his departure in
April 2011 and now trade nearly ten percent higher.
Kapoor launched his new strategy in February with a focus on
fast-growing health and hygiene brands like Dettol/Lysol
disinfectant and Durex condoms, and a big push into emerging
markets, while increasing marketing spend behind key brands.
He set his 5-year target to grow the business 2 percent
above market growth rates and raise margins steadily over time
as he planned to lift its emerging market business to 50 percent
of sales when stripping out non-core pharma and food units.
The pharma unit earns the vast majority of profit from its
Suboxone heroin treatment and while Reckitt is extending its
life with a film version which dissolves on the tongue the group
realises the unit will be hit hard once generic rivals appear.
The group said its Suboxone sublingual film now has a 53
market share, up from 48 percent at the end of 2011.
Reckitt's rivals have seen contrasting fortunes with
Unilever seeing strong sales growth helped by price
rises and emerging market growth, while Procter & Gamble
cut its full-year outlook citing developing market weakness and
added it would have to roll-back on some price rises.
Reckitt's overall first-quarter sales rose 3 percent to 2.36