Reckitt Benckiser profits up despite rising input costs

Reckitt Benckiser has reported a 10% rise in first quarter profits to £355m, despite facing rising input costs.

The household products group behind Cillit Bang and Nurofen was helped by strong sales in developing markets.

Rising prices for crude oil, rubber, palm oil and plastics had threatened to squeeze the firm's profits.

Chief executive Bart Becht said the firm's new heroin substitute and cost savings from recently-acquired Durex-maker SSL would boost profits in 2011.

Mr Becht will step down in September, making way for Rakesh Kapoor, who has been at the firm for 25 years.

The surprise resignation of the man who has led the firm for 16 years had sent shares sharply lower when it was announced last week.

But the unexpectedly strong first quarter results helped the company's share price recover much of those losses and the shares finished Wednesday London trading up 3.93%.

Like-for-like sales rose 5% across the group as a whole, but came largely from a 15% jump in sales in developing markets.

In contrast, sales growth at its mature Europe and North American markets - which together comprise about two-thirds of revenues - were 0% and 2% respectively.

Mr Becht said the firm's new version of Suboxane - a heroin substitute used by recovering addicts that dissolves on the tongue - had gained a 37% market share, providing over a third of the firm's US revenues in the three months.

He also predicted substantial cost synergies would come from integrating SSL, the manufacturer of Durex condoms and Scholl sandals that the firm bought last year, although much of the task will be left to his successor.

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