Reckitt Benckiser shares slump 10% after disappointing Q4 sales

Shares in Reckitt Benckiser Group (LSE: RKT) plunged 10% in early trading on Wednesday after the consumer goods giant reported a surprise fall in sales for the fourth quarter.

The company, which owns brands such as Dettol, Lysol and Durex, said like-for-like sales in the three months to December 31 fell 1.2%, below market expectations and marking a significant slowdown from the 5.6% growth recorded in the same quarter a year earlier.

Reckitt’s full-year performance, however, showed a more modest decline, with revenue edging up 1.1% to £14.61 billion and like-for-like sales growth of 3.5%. Pretax profit fell 25% to £2.40 billion, while diluted earnings per share declined to 227.4 pence from 325.7 pence in 2022.

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The company attributed the weak fourth-quarter performance to a decline in sales volumes, which outpaced price increases. While Hygiene sales remained relatively stable, both the Health and Nutrition segments experienced significant volume declines.

Despite the disappointing results, Reckitt expressed confidence in its future prospects. The company expects to return to growth in 2024, targeting mid-single-digit growth for its Health and Hygiene portfolios and predicting a return to growth for the Nutrition business later in the year.

Additionally, the company pledged to increase cash returns to shareholders, with a final dividend of 115.9 pence per share, up from 110.3 pence last year. This brings the total payout to 192.5 pence, representing a 5.0% increase compared to 2022’s 183.3 pence payment.