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Reckitt Benckiser sales beat estimates on health focus

Nurofen pain relievers targeting specific types of pain are seen on a pharmacy shelf in Sydney, Australia December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed

LONDON (Reuters) - Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) posted stronger than expected full-year sales on Monday, helped by its focus on faster-growing consumer health products.

The maker of Mucinex cold medicine, Nurofen tablets and Durex condoms has been pouring resources into such consumer health products and its latest sales numbers lifted the share price by 5.3 percent to 62.81 pounds by 0841 GMT.

"These were a phenomenal set of results," said Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood. "RB blew away consensus on every major metric."

Like-for-like sales rose 6 percent in the full year, versus analysts' expectations for a rise of 5.3 percent, according to a company supplied consensus. In October Reckitt forecast a 5 percent gain, slightly above a previous forecast of between 4 percent and 5 percent.

Net revenue was 8.87 billion pounds ($13 billion) and earnings per share were 258.6 pence, beatings estimates of 8.81 billion pounds and 240 pence per share.

Like-for-like fourth-quarter sales rose 7 percent, driven by strength of its consumer health portfolio. Yet the company said that sales of its cold medicines had been affected by a less severe flu season in the United States this year.

Reckitt said it expects to deliver another year of growth and margin expansion despite the macroeconomic environment remaining tough. It forecast like-for-like net revenue growth of 4 percent to 5 percent and for its operating margin to expand at a "moderate" rate in the medium term.

Chief Executive Rakesh Kapoor told reporters on Monday that the company remains interested in looking at consumer health acquisitions where they would create value for shareholders.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing by David Holmes and David Goodman)