London International has high hope for new condom

NIGEL COPE

London International, the Durex to Marigold gloves group, expects its Avanti polyurethane condom to capture 10 per cent of the worldwide condom market by the end of the decade, the company said yesterday. The company believes the Avanti brand can grow by between 3-4 per cent a year and grab pounds 50m worth of world-wide sales.

The plastic product is half as thick as latex and is being marketed as a high-quality, high-priced niche product.

So far, it is only on sale in 13 western states in the US and has not yet gained regulatory approval for sale as an approved contraceptive. It is undergoing clinical trials in America, which are expected to be completed next year. This will be followed by a national launch.

In spite of this Avanti is hanging on to its 3 per cent market share where it is sold.

The costs of producing the Avanti brand caused pounds 1.3m of additional costs in the six months to September.

Group pre-tax profits jumped from pounds 1m to pounds 6.5m, boosted by a strong performance from the the health and personal products division. Sales of surgical gloves were up by 22 per cent to pounds 26.6m. Sales of household and industrial gloves were up by 11 per cent. The company recently sold the UK and export business of Woodward's gripewater and teething gel for pounds 17.6m. This follows the sale of the photo-processing unit. Other brands are also up for sale. These include Cook Bastes, the American manicure business, and Plantur, the hair-care range primarily sold in Germany.

Net borrowings are down to pounds 44m. The company hopes to use the cash from disposals to fund other acquisitions. The company expects to raise pounds 30m- pounds 50m from future sales. Panmure Gordon, the broker, has left its full- year forecast unchanged at pounds 25m.

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