Sex and sniffles prove good for Reckitt

Reckitt Benckiser thanked strong demand for cold and flu remedies and for Durex condoms for its 3 per cent rise in profits last year.

The consumer goods giant, which also makes Nurofen painkillers and Dettol disinfectant, beat City expectations as pre-tax profits edged up 2 per cent to £2.4bn after exceptional costs, mainly relating to restructuring, rose to £135m.

Reckitt said "higher incidences of cold and flu" had triggered a leap in demand for its Strepsils sore throat sweets and Mucinex chesty cough medicine in Europe and North America in the fourth quarter. And Durex's new Performax Intense condoms, plus expansion in China, had given the condom brand "a particularly strong quarter".

Rakesh Kapoor, who took over as chief executive from Bart Brecht in 2011, said: "We are now setting the target of … our emerging market areas to become 50 per cent of our core business net revenue by 2015."

Mr Kapoor forecast that sales this year would rise as much as 6 per cent, boosted by acquisitions. Reckitt bought a "modest-sized" traditional Chinese medicine company and earlier this week announced a $482m (£308m) deal with the US group Bristol-Myers Squibb to sell over-the-counter drugs in Brazil and Mexico.

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