--Unilever, Rentokil Initial and Reckitt Benckiser reported improved third-quarter sales this week

--The progress was driven by higher demand for disinfectants and hygiene products

--Analysts believe the pandemic will lead to a longer-term change in consumption patterns


By Matteo Castia


FTSE 100 companies Unilever PLC, Rentokil Initial PLC and Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC reported higher third-quarter sales this week, as a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic boosted demand for disinfectants and other hygiene products.

Unilever, which owns consumer brands such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap and Cif and Domestos cleaning products, said Thursday that its quarterly underlying sales rose 4.4% year-on-year. However, the Anglo-Dutch company's turnover fell 2.4% to 12.9 billion euros ($15.3 billion) due to a hit from currency effects.

"Unilever has enjoyed a generally strong quarter, still driven by a pandemic-related boost in sales of home and hygiene products," Interactive Investor analyst Richard Hunter said. Beauty and personal care remained the largest contributor to Unilever's turnover in the third quarter.

Also on Thursday, pest-control, hygiene and workwear services provider Rentokil Initial said continuing revenue---one of its preferred metrics, which shows the performance of continuing operations, including acquisitions and stripping the effect of disposed or closed businesses--rose by 5.5% to GBP754.6 million in the third quarter.

The company said sales growth was driven by its hygiene business, which grew 54% year-on-year, and disinfection revenue, which rose 53% on the year to GBP74.6 million.

"General attitudes to hygiene have now altered globally and the likelihood is that this new awareness is now here to stay," Interactive Investor's Mr. Hunter said.

On Tuesday, consumer-goods giant Reckitt Benckiser raised its full-year net revenue guidance to low double-digit percentage growth on the back of a 6.6% revenue increase in the third quarter.

This performance was also driven by hygiene concerns among consumers. Hygiene was Reckitt Benckiser's fastest-growing segment, with sales rising 13% year-on-year to GBP1.49 billion.

The company's fastest-growing region was North America, where sales rose 19% on the year, led by strong performance of its Lysol disinfectant.

"Our pursuit of cleanliness during the pandemic has been hugely beneficial for the group and the signs are that the crisis is leading to a longer-term behavior shift, with consumers demanding reassurance that workplaces, shops and public transport are germ-free," Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said.


Write to Matteo Castia at matteo.castia@dowjones.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 22, 2020 04:19 ET (08:19 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.