Oct. 23--Reckitt Benckiser hoisted a 'for sale' sign over its heroin-substitute unit after sales flopped for the ninth month in a row.
The consumer goods firm, whose products include Cillit Bang and Nurofen, yesterday began a strategic review of its pharmaceuticals division. Analysts expect this to lead to a sale.
The unit specialises in a heroin-substitute film called Suboxone that dissolves on the tongue to help recovering addicts.
But it has faced strong competition from rival products available in pill form after the patents for the drug expired dragging its share of the market down from near-monopoly to 68pc.
Now Reckitt has begun assessing whether to sell, keep or break up the business, and will make a final decision next year.
Analyst Graham Jones at Panmure Gordon said: 'We expect this to conclude with the disposal of the business in 2014.
'Whilst Suboxone has delivered tremendous profits and cashflow for the group, we think now is the right time to seek an exit.'
The company insisted a sale is not the only choice and that it is examining all options.
Analysts said the division, which is also developing treatments for cocaine addiction and alcoholism, could fetch between pounds sterling 2bn and pounds sterling 5.5bn.
The pharmaceuticals arm sits outside the rest of Reckitt's consumer-focused business.
Underlying revenues for the division have fallen 16pc to pounds sterling 591m so far this year, Reckitt said.
It came as the firm hiked its annual outlook for the rest of the group, saying underlying revenues would grow at 6pc, at the top end of expectations.
Shares climbed as much as 6.6pc on the news before finishing 5.2pc, or 234p higher, at 4734p.
Reckitt said emerging markets revenues had grown at 5pc once new product launches were stripped out.