Durex in talks to buy sex-aid manufacturer

SSL International, the maker of Durex condoms, is in talks to buy CST Medical, the company behind the first sex aid to be sold in Boots.

Yorkshire-based CST has launched Vielle, a clitoral stimulator made of PVC and worn on the finger. The product is currently selling 3,500 boxes a week at £9.99 apiece, having been launched in Boots earlier this year. It will be available at other chemists from the New Year.

CST is backed by the venture capital group Yorkshire Enterprise and has been valued by its brokers, Williams de Broe, at up to £6m. SSL is believed to be in competition with another major condom manufacturer over the acquisition, which would be small beer for either company.

Mid-cap SSL said last week that sales of its Durex condoms had risen by about 5 per cent thanks to new designs and a revamped marketing campaign. Durex is one of the company's "key brands" as it slims down to focus on consumer products. It is in talks to sell its hospital products business, which could net about £250m to pay down debt and fund new acquisitions.

CST is holding acquisition talks in parallel with its efforts to raise up to £1m in a private placement of new shares, before a flotation on the junior stock market, Aim, next year. The company believes female sexual dysfunction, which according to a 1999 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association affects up to 43 per cent of adult women, could eventually rival the $4bn market for male erectile dysfunction products such as Viagra. It is developing a suite of Vielle-branded products, including a lubrication gel.

Vielle, described by Glamour magazine as looking like a cross between "an exploded rubber glove and an emergency toothbrush", was invented by Liz Paul, who had previously developed a patch for chocaholics.

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