- Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser swung to a full-year profit as sales rose and impairment charges fell, though its underlying earnings were hurt by weaker margins.

The company also announced that it agreed to sell its Scholl foot-care brand to Yellow Wood Partners, for an undisclosed sum, and would acquire the Biofreeze topical pain relief brand from Performance Health.

Pre-tax profit for the year through December amounted to £1.87 billion, swinging from a year-on-year loss of £2.11 billion.

Revenue climbed 8.9% to £13.99 billion, underpinned by 16% growth in the hygiene business amid the pandemic and 9.6% growth in health, offset by a 2.0% fall in nutrition.

On a like-for-like basis, annual sales rose 12%, including a 10% rise in the fourth quarter.

Adjusted operating profit for the year, however, fell 2.0% to £3.30 billion, while adjusted earnings per share fell 6.3% to 327.0p.

The company's annual adjusted operating margin fell 260 basis points to 23.6%, which it said was in line with expectations.

Reckitt Benckiser kept its annual divided steady at 174.6p per share.

Looking forward, it forecast like-for-like revenue growth of flat to 2% and 'broadly unchanged' adjusted operating margin.

'We will continue to invest in growth resulting in margins in 2021 being between 40 - 90 basis points lower than 2020 levels,' it added.

Chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said 2020 we successfully navigated unchartered waters.

'Our portfolio is clearly resilient - with or without Covid-19 - and we are building a stronger business for the future,' he said.

'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.'

'2020 was a turning point for Reckitt Benckiser. Our performance is strong, we are building capability, actively managing our portfolio and transforming our culture.'

'We expect 2021 to be a year of further strategic progress and we remain confident that we will meet our medium-term targets.'

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