By Martinne Geller
LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Reckitt Benckiser RB.L reported on Tuesday a much bigger-than-expected rise in third-quarter sales and raised its full-year outlook, as the coronavirus pandemic lifts demand for its cleaning products.
The British maker of Dettol and Lysol said its plan to rejuvenate sales following years of difficulties may be achieved a year earlier than expected.
"While there is still more work to do, I'm pleased to say that RB today is in much better shape than it was a year ago," Chief Executive Laxman Narasimhan, who has been in the role for a year, told reporters.
Reckitt shares were up 2% at 0705 GMT in London. They had gained 17.5% this year by Monday's close.
The company said sales on a like-for-like basis, excluding items such as foreign exchange fluctuations, rose 13.3%. Analysts on average expected a 9.5% increase, according to a consensus provided by the company.
Quarterly net revenue was 3.51 billion pounds ($4.5 billion), up from 3.21 billion pounds a year earlier.
The company raised its full-year net revenue outlook, saying it expects a low double-digit rise, up from a previous forecast of high single-digit growth.
Like-for-like sales rose 19.5% in the company's hygiene business in the third quarter, 12.6% in its health business, which includes Durex condoms and Mucinex cold medicine, and 4.1% in its nutrition business, which includes Enfamil baby formula.
The COVID-19 pandemic has relieved pressure on a business that has struggled against intense competition in the health and hygiene sectors for several years.
Reckitt is preparing to sell some of its personal care brands, including Veet hair removal cream and Clearasil acne cream, Reuters reported last month.
($1 = 0.7739 pounds)
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir/Susan Fenton)
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