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Rentokil just hits growth target

Rentokil Initial, the pest control to plant hire group, yesterday just managed to meet its goal of 20 per cent annual earnings growth, after a pounds 14m hit from the strong pound.

Speaking at the group's half-year results, Sir Clive Thompson, chief executive of Rentokil, admitted that without BET, the businesses services giant bought for pounds 2.1bn last year, the company would have struggled to reach its growth target.

"Nothing grows at 20 per cent forever. If the company had remained as it was, it would have slowed. But that's not earth-shattering. Every business needs to change to grow," he said.

Earnings per share rose 20.3 per cent to 89p in the six months to June, the first set of figures to include a full contribution from BET.

Sir Clive said that the group was poised to sell peripheral BET and Rentokil businesses, including timber preserving and industrial production. However, he dismissed criticisms that keeping BET's plant hire businesses exposed the company to cyclical markets: "Our view is that if we can add value to these businesses, run them better and generate cash, we will keep them."

Analysts said Sir Clive's earnings target had become a noose around the companies' neck, and predicted earnings growth would slow to around 16 per cent over the next few years.

Andrew Ripper at Merrill Lynch said the City was frustrated at the lack of transparency in the group's figures, which included a full six-months' contribution from BET, against two months last time.

"It is very difficult to make sense of the divisional split," he added.

Investment column, page 18