Reckitt to return cash to investors

The world's biggest household goods firm, Reckitt Benckiser, says it will start returning cash to investors, boosting its shares after it posted higher second-quarter profit and raised its 2003 targets.

The world's biggest household goods firm, Reckitt Benckiser, says it will start returning cash to investors, boosting its shares after it posted higher second-quarter profit and raised its 2003 targets.

The maker of Finish/Calgonit dishwasher products said it would increase its dividend, frozen since its creation in 1999, and spend free cash, which has averaged about stg£250m (€361.01m) a year, on buying back shares.

Chief Executive Bart Becht denied this would limit Reckitt's freedom to make acquisitions but would not comment on whether the firm was in talks to buy Durex condom-maker SSL International.

Reckitt, formed from the 1999 takeover of Dutch firm Benckiser by Britain's Reckitt & Colman, said net profit rose 14% to stg£117m (€168.97m) in the three months to June 30.

Net revenues climbed 7%to stg £960m (€1386.31m).

The interim dividend rose 10% percent to stg£0.14 (€0.20) per share.

Like Unilever, Reckitt said North American markets were tough in its second quarter. But CEO Becht said business had improved from one month to the next, and that trend had continued in July.

He said in a conference call that the company looks forward to a better second half in North America.

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