India markets closed

Coronavirus epidemic boosting Dettol sales

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Lysol bottles on a store shelf, plastic spray bottles of all-purpose cleaner. The product is distributed by Reckitt Benckiser. (Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The epidemic of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is boosting sales of disinfectants, a leading manufacturer said on Thursday.

Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) said sales of its Dettol disinfectant wipes and Lysol cleaning products had been boosted by the deadly epidemic.

“We are seeing some increased demand,” the company said in its annual results.

It is unclear whether disinfectants like Dettol and Lysol can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The only know method of transmission is face-to-face via infected droplets coughed or sneezed out. It is unclear whether the virus can survive on hard surfaces, where disinfectant products would be used.

As well as pushing up demand, the outbreak is also changing shopping habits. Reckitt Benckiser said more people in China are buying online, rather than going to the store.

However, COVID-19 is also disrupting Reckitt Benckiser’s supply chain and denting sales of other products. The company makes everything from Durex condoms to Calgon water softener.

As a result, Reckitt Benckiser said it’s “too early to fully assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Reckitt Benckiser said it is donating disinfectant products to health professionals around the world.

“We are committed to China, to the health of our consumers in China and to the health and safety of our employees in China,” the company said.

Over 82,000 people have contracted COVID-19 around the world and more than 2,800 have died from it. The majority of cases have been in China.

The COVID-19 epidemic has sparked panic buying in some parts of the world. Hong Kong has faced a shortage of toilet roll and face masks have sold out in parts of the US. The price of hand sanitiser and masks has sky-rocketed in Italy, where Europe’s biggest outbreak currently is.

Reckitt Benckiser’s update on Dettol and Lysol sales came as the company reported annual results. Sales rose 0.8% to £12.8bn but the business slipped to a net loss of £3.6bn due to writing off the value of part of the business.

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo Finance UK