SSL lifted by new range of condoms

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The Independent Online

Sales at the Durex owner SSL surged 7 per cent in the first half of the year, as new "pleasure-enhancing" condoms and a vibrating ring for men proved popular.

The company's Scholl footcare products division also saw growth on the back of launches such as Cracked Heel Repair Cream, which it says can fix heels in seven days, and Freeze Verruca and Wart Remover, a spray that burns off verrucas.

At the Durex division, condoms launched over the past 12 months were a hit, such as Pleasuremax, designed to give greater enjoyment as a result of having ribs on its shaft and dots on its head, and Tingle, which has warming menthol in its lubrication.

Durex also saw success from Durex Play Vibrations, a battery-powered vibrating ring. It has been particularly popular in Spain, where it has sold 3 million units. The company is hoping it will also prove popular in the UK, where it retails for £5.99, after launching a late-night television advertising campaign for the product here last week.

Announcing a trading update, Garry Watts, the chief executive, said: "People are perfectly willing to experiment and try new things. The vibrating rings are selling like hot cakes. They really seem to have caught the imagination. It's fun to use."

Sales of condoms and footcare have been driven by an increased advertising budget of £80m this year - of which more than half was spent in the first six months. SSL said the advertising investment - up 10 per cent - meant operating profit for the first six months would be "marginally lower". But the company said it would achieve its double-digit operating profit growth target for the full year.

The company has been the subject of intense takeover speculation, with predators supposedly including Reckitt Benckiser and Johnson & Johnson.

Mr Watts indicated that no offers were being considered. and said given the level of speculation, SSL would have had to make an announcement.

"If you're in talks, you have to respond [to press reports]," he said.