Reckitt Benckiser says Mead Johnson takeover on track

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However, in a note to clients on Reckitt, Whitman Howard analyst Chris Wickham noted that although the reported flat like-for-like growth was beneath the company polled consensus forecast there was an "element of distortion" in the poll due "to one outlying estimate".

The results contrasted with generally upbeat news from rivals Unilever and Nestle SA, which on Thursday reported better-than-expected sales after raising prices.

Reckitt Benckiser's performance should accelerate after the second quarter, Kapoor said.

Total revenues rose by 15 per cent, with European revenues rose by nine per cent.

He added: "The acquisition of Mead Johnson, to create a global leader in consumer health, is progressing well and we expect completion by the end of the third quarter".

The company said it remains "on track" to achieve its full-year net revenue target of 3% like-for-like growth, adding that while the headwinds faced in the first quarter will persist throughout the first half, it expects its growth trajectory to improve as the year progresses.

China's economy grew 6.9% in the first quarter
China's economic growth ticked higher to 6.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to the latest figures. The country's total debt rose to 277% of GDP at the end of a year ago , sharply up from 125% at the end of 2008.

Reckitt Benckiser said its $16.6bn acquisition of USA baby formula maker Mead Johnson remained on track to be completed by the end of the third quarter.

The disappointing sales will however increase the focus on dealmaking which has seen Reckitt concentrate more on consumer health and flag a possible sale of its small food business.

Reckitt said the weaker performance in Europe, North America and Australasia was due to a "significant" decline in foot care brand Amope in the United States as well declines in Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand as they faced a strong comparative period which included the launch a year ago of the Wet & Dry Express pedi.

Chief executive Rakesh Kapoor, who saw his pay slashed by more than a third to £14.6 million previous year, said the "results are in line with expectations as macro conditions remain challenging".

At the time the group said it was considering "all options" for the unit, which includes French's mustard and sauce products. It had said this month that it was reviewing a business it called "non-core" as it looks to pay down debt from Mead Johnson.