Nurofen maker Reckitt Benckiser cited a “relatively weak cold and flu season”, with shoppers staying healthy, as like-for-like sales in Europe remained flat over the past three months.

But pre-tax profits rose 16% to £461m in the period to 31 March, as the company continued to focus on its 17 ‘Powerbrands’ including Cillit Bang, Dettol and Vanish.

Total sales for the period were up 5% to £2bn.

“Reckitt Benckiser had a good first quarter in 2010… in line with our full-year targets,” said chief executive Bart Becht (pictured). “This result was supported by successful new product initiatives and significant investment in media and marketing across our Powerbrand portfolio.”

Shares in the company – which has a history of outperforming market expectations – slid after the announcement, despite the hike in profits.

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Reckitt Benckiser chief Becht takes home £93m in 2009 (8 April 2010)
Reckitt Benckiser reaps benefits of Powerbrands push (10 February 2010)