British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Rakesh Kapoor would retire by the end of 2019 after more than eight years at the helm and more than three decades with the company.
The maker of Durex condoms and Enfamil infant formula said it had started a formal process to appoint Kapoor's successor and was looking at internal and external candidates.
Kapoor, who took over as CEO in September 2011, had a long-stated plan to transform Reckitt from a British maker of household cleaning products into a global leader in consumer healthcare.
In 2017, the company spent $17 billion buying U.S. baby formula maker Mead Johnson. The deal took Reckitt into a new area of baby formula and dramatically boosted its presence in fast-growing markets such as China.
" ... I believe now is a good time for new leadership to take this great company through the next phase of outperformance. I will remain fully focused on driving the business until a successor is in place," Kapoor said on Wednesday.
Last year, the company started to gather momentum after two years of disappointing results caused by a failed product launch, a cyber attack and a safety scandal in South Korea.
However, a manufacturing glitch at a Dutch factory producing baby milk hurt Reckitt Benckiser's third-quarter sales in October.
"Kapoor's departure could signal the start of plans to formally split the businesses into two separate entities. This could make either or both of the two businesses more attractive to prospective third parties," Liberum analyst Robert Waldschmidt said.
Reckitt said in 2017 it would split into two divisions - consumer healthcare and home and hygiene products.
Waldschmidt, who has a "buy" rating on Reckitt, also said Wednesday's announcement would bring new interest to the shares.
Reckitt shares dipped 1.5% and were among top fallers on the blue-chip index in early trade.
The stock has almost doubled in value under Kapoor's leadership, giving it a market value of £44.3 billion ($57.1 billion).
Kapoor did not respond to a request for further comment on the professional networking site LinkedIn.
Based in the English town of Slough, Reckitt's revenue grew from £9.49 billion in 2011 to 11.51 billion pounds for the year ended December 2017.