By Martinne Geller
LONDON (Reuters) – Reckitt Benckiser is working to resolve both its search for a new chief executive and its position relating to U.S. charges of wrongdoing at a former business, its chairman told investors at its annual general meeting on Thursday.
The maker of Lysol cleaners and Durex condoms is “well under way with a comprehensive process” to select a successor to Chief Executive Rakesh Kapoor, Chairman Christopher Sinclair said at the meeting in London.
“I’m hopeful that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have something significant to report here,” Sinclair said.
This year’s meeting was likely to be the last for CEO Kapoor, who plans to retire at the end of 2019, after more than eight years at the helm and more than three decades with the consumer goods company overall.
Kapoor, who sought to transform Reckitt from a British maker of household cleaners into a global consumer health giant, thanked both shareholders and his colleagues.
“Even though I might not have been able to do everything I wanted to do, I want to thank some of my team members who are right here, for supporting me and helping me in doing as much as I possibly could for you and for the company as a whole,” he said.
Sinclair also sought to clarify Reckitt’s position regarding U.S. criminal charges brought against drugmaker Indivior, which Reckitt owned until 2014. Indivior is accused of illegally increasing prescriptions for its opioid addiction treatment Suboxone.
Reckitt has set aside a provision of $400 million (307.64 million pounds) in case it is charged.
“We were not named in the U.S. Department of Justice indictment and we’ve not been accused of any crime. Reckitt Benckiser believes strongly that we’ve done nothing wrong and we see no evidence of impropriety by any of our group employees,” Sinclair said.
“Having said all that … we are working towards a resolution,” he added.
“We think that’s the right course in this environment and we’ll have something more to say when something material develops.”
The chairman also laid out Reckitt’s future priorities, which include reigniting organic growth and completing both the integration of the Mead Johnson baby formula business and the separation of its two business units under one roof, which CEO Kapoor said creates “the possibility of having structural independence”.
At the same time, Sinclair said acquisitions remained a priority that the company “continues to pursue actively”.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Keith Weir)