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Reckitt benefits from flu season to begin 2013 strongly

LONDON (Reuters) - Reckitt Benckiser reported a strong start to 2013 as the maker of Strepsils lozenges and Mucinex decongestant continued to benefit from a severe United States cold and flu season.

Total net revenues in the three months to end-March were 2.52 billion pounds ($3.8 billion), up 7 percent, or 6 percent stripping out its pharmaceuticals unit.

Analysts were expecting revenues of 2.47 billion pounds for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters estimates.

In February, Reckitt beat full year profit forecasts, driven in part by the unusually intense cold and flu season.

The company said on Monday that its Dettol disinfectant was also growing strongly in emerging markets, and revenue growth at its recently-acquired Schiff business was "well ahead" of the U.S. vitamin market.

Reckitt, which also makes household cleaning products such as Cillit Bang, has been shifting its focus to the fast-growing health and hygiene sector, with brands including Durex condoms and Gaviscon indigestion treatment.

It is also targeting emerging markets, and wants them to make up half its sales by 2015, compared to 44 percent currently.

Its pharmaceuticals business makes most of its profit from buprenorphine drugs to wean addicts off heroin.

U.S. regulators gave the go-ahead for two generic versions of Reckitt's buprenorphine Suboxone drug earlier this year, which had been widely expected after it went off-patent in 2009.

The early impact of the generic tablets on its sales was in line with expectations, Reckitt said.

The company maintained its full year revenue growth target of between 5 and 6 percent. ($1 = 0.6554 British pounds)

(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; editing by James Davey)

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