London-based Reckitt Benckiser PLC reported a pre-tax profit of $181.6 million for the three months ending March 31, up from $157 million in the year-ago period. Gross margin increased due to favorable long-term contracts, higher margin new products and savings from ongoing cost optimization programs. Net revenues rose 2% to $1.4 billion, and net revenues from continuing operations grew 3% from the previous year, company executives said.
The company’s marketing investment increased by more than 20% to a level of over 11% of net revenues. Operating margins increased 80 basis points to 13.4%, and operating profit grew 8% to $191.4 million. Net income increased 17% from the year-ago period, to $134.1 million.
“Reckitt Benckiser made a strong start in 2003,” said Bart Becht, chief executive officer of the company. “All regions contributed, with continuing growth in the established markets of Western Europe and North America and improvement in emerging markets. Profit growth was well ahead at this rate, with profitability benefitting