What you need to know about: RB

Can the Anglo-Dutch giant formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser ditch the headaches and get back to cleaning up in CPGs?

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 17 Mar 2017

Formative years

RB as we know it today was created by the £5bn merger of the UK's Reckitt & Colman with Dutch rival Benckiser in 1999, creating a brand powerhouse to rival, in theory at any rate, the biggest beasts of consumer packaged goods.

Its roots lie in 19th-century laundry with Isaac Reckitt's starch mill in Hull and Johann Benckiser's household chemicals business in Pforzheim, Germany. FTSE 100 RB's brands today include Cillit Bang, Calgon and Durex, but it is still substantially smaller than arch-rivals P&G and Unilever.

Recent history

A focus on consumer healthcare - it produces Nurofen, Gaviscon and Strepsils among others - has helped RB make up in quality what it lacks in sheer global heft. The strategy has not been without its own problems however: an executive was jailed in South Korea following the sale of toxic disinfectants linked to 92 deaths last year, and Australian regulators have fined RB £3.5m for making misleading claims about Nurofen painkillers.

Hence last month's news that the firm's $16.7bn acquisition of US infant formula operation Mead Johnson took many analysts by surprise - not only for the 30% premium on its share price but also for the apparent change of demographic tack. Mead will account for around 40% of the new group's sales and its Enfa baby milk brand is big business, especially in the emerging markets where RB remains a half pint.

Who's the boss?

CEO Rakesh Kapoor, a veteran who joined the-then Reckitt & Colman in 1987 and has worked his way up to the top. He knows that RB needs scale to keep winning, and since losing a bidding war for Merck's consumer health business two years ago there hasn't been much on the market. Mead Johnson may be his best chance to get big, quick.

Don't mention...

Money. Kapoor's salary of £23m in 2015 raised hackles among the pay police. But RB is no stranger to pay troubles - even Kapoor's hefty take-home is peanuts compared to the £90m paid to predecessor Bart Becht back in 2009.


Revenues: £9.89bn
Net profit: £1.8bn
Employees: 37,000


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