British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser on Wednesday capped 2020 with the strongest sales in its history, as the COVID-19 pandemic made hygiene a top priority and fuelled demand for its products.
"In 2020 we successfully navigated unchartered waters," commented Laxman Narasimhan, Reckitt Benckiser chief executive. "This past year we delivered a strong revenue performance with nearly £14bn of sales and +11.8% like-for-like growth. eCommerce sales grew by a record +56% and now account for around 12% of group net revenue."
The company said it expects sales in 2021 to come in flat or up 2%, slightly slower than the pace it saw in 2020 due to tough comparables versus last year while lower birth rates also kept a lid on sales of items such as Enfamil baby formula.
The Slough-based company said a strategic review was underway for its infant formula business in Greater China, and added that it would sell its Scholl foot products unit to private equity firm Yellow Wood Partners and acquire Biofreeze pain relief gel from Performance Health.
Terms of both transactions were not disclosed, but the company said deals would initially be earnings-neutral.
"We have made a strong start to implementing our new strategy and proved that we can adapt and successfully respond to rapidly changing market conditions," Narasimhan added. "Our portfolio is clearly resilient - with or without COVID-19 - and we are building a stronger business for the future.
"Our category-leading germ protection/disinfection brands have all seen substantial market growth, with around 80% of our consumers expecting to retain many of their new improved habits post pandemic. We capitalised on these new behaviours with Dettol and Lysol entering 41 markets, with plans to enter a further 29 markets in 2021."