Reckitt pins hopes on 'power brands' to drive sales

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The Independent Online

Reckitt Benckiser, the Anglo-Dutch company behind Mr Sheen, Vanish and Dettol, is aiming to outshine the household products industry again next year with its continued focus on new launches backed up by more advertising.

The group said yesterday that it would follow the trend set by rivals such as Unilever and concentrate on driving growth from its top 15 brands, which include Finish dishwasher products and Harpic toilet cleaner.

Bart Becht, the chief executive, said the group's main "power brands" would increase their net revenue contribution by 10 per cent to 50 per cent by 2005.

Reckitt also intends to rebrand its products under one global name, replacing local brands such as Kosla in Turkey with Vanish.

Mr Becht said the exercise would be gradual, taking up to eight years in some cases.

The group, which was formed in 1999 from the takeover of the Dutch company Benckiser by the UK-owned Reckitt and Colman, set itself new targets of growing its net revenues by 4 to 6 per cent and its net income by 12 to 15 per cent. The revised goals came after Reckitt beat its targets for 2001 as it unveiled a strong set of full-year results.

Reckitt plans to continue innovating its product line. New launches last year included Calgonit 3-in-1 for dishwashers and Harpic toilet wipes.

Mr Becht said that wipes were a significant new market for Reckitt, which is the largest seller of wipes worldwide.

This year's innovations include a new Air Wick car freshener and an ultra lethal pest control spray, Mortein Ultra, which kills cockroaches seven times faster than its rivals.

The group revealed an 11 per cent rise in pre-tax profits for the year to 31 December to £498m from £447m in 2000, while it said total net revenues had grown by 7 per cent to £3.44bn from £3.2bn the year before. Colin Day, the chief financial officer, said that increased spending on advertising, which accounts for as much as 10 per cent of sales, had helped to drive top line growth.

The company plans to seek fill-in acquisitions, particularly in faster-growing emerging markets where it has under a third of its business.

Analysts said that this had sheltered the group from the sales slowdown that had affected some of its rivals.