Coronavirus: Dettol sales surge as markets fall again

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Reuters

Sales of Dettol and Lysol products have surged as the spread of the coronavirus outbreak continues.

The disinfectant is seen as providing protection against the spread of the disease, although its effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven.

In China, demand for Dettol-branded hand gels is outstripping supply, owner Reckitt Benckiser has said.

The shortages come as global markets slump for a sixth day, with the FTSE 100 trading almost 2% down.

Luxury carmaker Aston Martin and drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev are the latest to warn of the virus’s impact on their businesses.

  • Shares in AB InBev, the world’s largest beer maker, fell 9% after it forecast muted growth in 2020, partly due to the outbreak
  • Aston Martin shares tumbled to a record low as it posted a £104m loss before tax and warned it had seen demand drop because of the virus.

“We are seeing some increased demand for Dettol and Lysol products and are working to support the relevant healthcare authorities and agencies, including through donations, information and education. We do see increased activity online for our consumers in China,” Dettol owner Reckitt Benckiser said in its results on Thursday.

“If you look at China today, what you are seeing is that consumer traffic to store is down, but you do see activity moving to online,” Reckitt Benckiser chief executive Laxman Narasimhan said.

He added the firm had “seen some disruptions to retail and distribution channels and getting products in to market”, meaning the effect on company performance had been balanced.

Hand washing with soap is one of the key health messages promoted by governments in the face of the outbreak, and Dettol and Lysol are two of the world’s leading disinfectants.

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Online pharmacy Medino said it had also seen a sharp rise in demand for hand sanitiser in the UK since the beginning of early February, and said some suppliers were starting to struggle.

“A number of these customers are not our regular buyers, rather we’re seeing new customers purchasing large quantities of hand sanitiser suggesting people are stockpiling in response to recent events,” said superintendent pharmacist Giulia Guerrini.

Meanwhile, AB InBev forecast a 10% decline in first-quarter profit after the coronavirus outbreak hurt beer sales during the Chinese New Year.

Aston Martin – which counts China as its fastest-growing market – also said on Thursday that the outbreak was affecting its sales and supply chain.

“Markets are moving on from thinking it’s all going to blow over and it’s all going to be fine to realising there clearly are some issues here,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“We are seeing short-term disruption in a range of industries as the [coronavirus] spread becomes wider and longer, and markets will have to start thinking about a serious slowdown in global economic activity.”