Reckitt Benckiser (UK)

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Reckitt Benckiser is the world #1 in household cleaning, with a huge portfolio of well-known brands ranging from cleaning products Lysol, Dettol, Harpic, Calgon and Vanish to automatic dishwasher tablets Finish, Electrasol and Jet-Dry. Virtually the only household care segment in which it doesn't have a major presence is laundry detergents, where it has avoided competition with traditional leaders such as P&G and Unilever. In 2005, the group bolstered its small portfolio of over-the-counter medicines with the purchase of Boots' healthcare products portfolio, which includes brands such as Nurofen and Strepsils. It strengthened this business further by buying US company Adams Respiratory, makers of Mucinex, in 2007. The group began 2010 with net cash of around £220m, raising speculation that a significant new acquisition could be on the cards. Mid-year it issued an offer to acquire SSL International, owner of Durex condoms and Scholl footcare products outside the US, followed by Indian marketer Paras Pharmaceuticals. In its most significant purchase to-date it snapped up infant formula manufacturer Mead Johnson in 2017.

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Brands

Finish Mucinex
MegaRed Calgonit
Disprin Veet
Spray 'n Wash Calgon
Airwick Dettol
Jet-Dry Lysol
Lemsip Glassex
Gaviscon French's
Senokot Frank's
Mortein Delsym
Nurofen €45
Clearasil Aqeo
Strepsils Optrex
K-Y Durex

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 11th Jul 2019: Reckitt Benckiser agreed to pay up to $1.4bn to settle allegations of fraudulent marketing by a former subsidiary which marketed anti-addiction drug Suboxone. RB owned the business until 2014, when it was spun off as Indivior. It is one of several companies that are being targeted by US regulators seeking to get the US opioid crisis under control. The Department of Justice and the FTC claim that Indivior, while it was still owned by RB, made unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of its product, designed to wean addicts off heroin, in order to boost sales. It also sought to connect addicts with doctors who it knew to be "prescribing opioids at high rates and in a clinically unwarranted manner". RB denies any allegations of unlawful conduct but agreed to settle in an attempt to draw a line under the case. Indivior itself already faces separate charges and potential fines of as much as $3bn.

Adbrands Social Media 19th Jun 2019: "Cricket Ball / Coaster". "Put that thing down! You don't know where it's been!" Now owned by Reckitt Benckiser, Pine O Cleen is an Australian icon that has been keeping Ozzie homes clean since 1939. Host/Havas goes for a complete gross-out with two funny new spots that remind you just where that thing you picked up in the park or the pub might have been before you added it to your collection. Yuck!

Adbrands Daily Update 12th Jun 2019: Reckitt Benckiser has raided PepsiCo to find its new CEO. The US drinks and snacks group's current chief commercial officer Laxman Naasimhan will join RB next month as deputy CEO, and will take over the top job from Rakesh Kapoor in September. PepsiCo named Ram Krishnan, also CEO for Greater China, as Narasimhan's successor as new chief commercial officer.

Adbrands Social Media 28th May 2019: "Nature Is Speaking". Household and personal care companies like Reckitt Benckiser are currently among the most voracious users of plastic, especially for potentially hazardous liquids like bleach or cleaning products, that need to packaged safely. As a result, though, they're also among the forerunners in seeking environmentally friendly solutions to that problem. RB has pledged to make all its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. This new spot from Casual Films highlights the pervasive nature of plastic, not with the usual distressing images of suffering animals, but by showing how plastic is even stealing nature's voice. It's a clever idea, which also indirectly serves as a tribute to the arcane skill of the Foley artists whose job it is to replicate natural sounds for film and TV. It's scary just how convincing these artificial sounds can be!

Adbrands Daily Update 16th Jan 2019: Rakesh Kapoor will step down as CEO of Reckitt Benckiser by the end of 2019. He spent 30 years at the company, and the past eight as CEO. The board announced the launch of a formal search to choose his successor.

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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The Colman in Reckitt & Colman was originally the well-known mustard manufacturer (sold off to Unilever in 1995). Jeremiah Colman set up a mill in Norwich, England in 1814, processing flour and mustard seed. In 1823, his nephew James joined the business, which became J&J Colman. Keen not to waste any of the by-products from the milling process, they moved into starch and laundry whiteners around 1840. At around the same time, Isaac Reckitt acquired a starch factory in Hull, and also began making laundry whitener as well as polish. Inherited by his four sons, the business flourished, expanding overseas with an Australian factory in 1886. Two years later, the company went public in London.

By the early 20th century both companies had fast-growing international businesses, and Colman's had a virtual monopoly of the British mustard industry, having bought up all of their regional competitors. Rather than fight for trade, Colman and Reckitt formed a partnership in 1913 under the name Atlantis, initially to enter South America. Subsequently this operation expanded to encapsulate all of both companies' international operations, including the acquisition of US food company RT French in 1920. Also in 1913, Reckitt & Sons became a partner in the UK-based Chiswick Polish Company, making a range of metal and shoe polishes, including top brand Brasso. This company also grew rapidly, introducing a wide range of other household goods, and renaming itself Chiswick Products in 1930.

In 1933, Reckitt & Sons introduced germicide Dettol, which rapidly became one of the company's most successful brands. Five years later, Reckitt and Colman sealed their highly productive Atlantis joint venture with a formal merger. Chiswick Products also became a wholly owned subsidiary of the group in 1954. The group continued to grow through acquisition, especially in the US. In 1985, air freshener group Airwick Industries joined the business, followed in 1990 by American household products group Boyle-Midway, whose brands included Woolite, Wizard and Sani-Flush. An attempt to enter the US condiments market was less successful. The group had acquired Durkee's Famous Foods in 1986, but finally gave up the business, selling off the seasonings division in 1992. In 1994, Reckitt & Colman paid Eastman Kodak $1.6bn for Lehn & Fink, makers of leading American disinfectant Lysol. To fund the L&F purchase, Colman's foods was sold to Unilever for $405m a year later, and the US personal products division to a private investment group for $123m in 1996. The latter included a miscellaneous collection of non-core baby wipes, bubble bath and breath spray brands.

In 1997, the group acquired fabric cleaners Spray'n Wash, Vivid, Yes and leading glass cleaner Glass Plus from SC Johnson for $160m. Also that year the group formed a joint venture with Indian pharmaceutical company Nicholas Piramal to market their respective consumer healthcare brands. Reckitt Piramal began operations in January 1998, quickly becoming the # 1 OTC manufacturer in that country. It later changed its name to Reckitt Benckiser India.

However, during 1998 the company was dogged by a series of competitive problems, particularly in the US following the L&F acquisition. These culminated in a profits warning in late 1998. Chief executive Vernon Sankey offered his resignation early the following year, claiming the company needed a fresh perspective. A few months later the group unveiled plans for a complete transformation, revealing that it would merge with Dutch group Benckiser (see Coty profile for more) to create the world's biggest non-laundry household products group. The deal was framed as a purchase by the British company of its Dutch counterpart - Reckitt shareholders received the majority share in the new company and company HQ remained the UK. However it was in effect a reverse takeover by the Dutch company - most of Reckitt's senior management team left the business as part of the deal, and Benckiser boss Bart Becht was installed as CEO of the enlarged business.

Just six days after finalizing the merger, Reckitt Benckiser saw its share price plunge after issuing another profits warning. The group blamed lack of investment in Reckitt & Colman's brands in 1999 for a fall in profits. These were later revealed to be down sharply by 88% to £52.5m, worsened by reorganisation and merger costs of almost £260m. The group promised to accelerate revenues in 2000, and cut 75 of its smaller products to concentrate on 50 key brands. CEO Becht lived up to his promise, shedding a number of small household brands in Australia and New Zealand (including Janola, Aura, Bluo, Longlife, Scotts and Soft as Soap), as well as its Gesal plant care business in Italy and Austrian skincare company Savoderm.

The group then announced the acquisition of Korea's #4 household goods business Oxy Co for $128m. Its brands include Oxy Clean fabric treatment, Tinkerbell air care, Cherie fabric softener and Thirsty Hippo de-humidifier. However at the same time, Reckitt announced the launch of a consolidation drive to merge most of its regional brands into 15 global "power brands". Over the following months a series of brand mergers were announced. The UK's Dettox brand was merged into Dettol during 2002; and Haze air fresheners worldwide into Airwick. UK-based depilatory product Immac was rebranded as Veet, its name in other territories. In a separate development Reckitt withdrew its well-known UK household insecticide Vapona in early 2002 after evidence that one of its ingredients could cause cancer.

In 2003 the group was reported to be in negotiations to acquire SSL International, which owns Durex condoms and Dr Scholl footcare products in the UK, but that deal failed to materialize. Far more substantial was the purchase of Boots' international healthcare products division in 2005 for £1.9bn. RB returned to SSL in 2010, tieing up a deal to acquire the business for £2.5bn. See full profile for current activities


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