Reckitt Benckiser (RBGLY)   shares fell sharply in early London trading Friday after the group posted first quarter sales that were largely in-line with expectations and said it was on track to meet full year targets for revenue growth.

The food and household brands group, which is acquiring Mead Johnson (MJN)  for just under $18 billion, said revenues for the three months ending in March rose 15% on a reported basis to £2.64 billion ($3.38 billion). Like-for-like sales in its hygiene group advanced 3%, the company said, while home and portfolio sales drifted 4% and 6% respectively. 

The slippage in comparable sales, as well as the weakness in European markets, pressured shares at the opening of trading on the FTSE 100, taking the stock 1.55% lower to 7,163 pence each by 11:30 BST, trimming the three month gain to around 5.2%.

"Our Q1 results are in line with expectations as macro conditions remain challenging. Against this backdrop our underlying business remains strong," said CEO Rakesh Kapoor. "We delivered continued outperformance in consumer health and good growth in (developing markets), offset by previously flagged headwinds, which will persist during the first half."

"I expect our growth trajectory to improve as we progress through the year and we remain on track to achieve our full year net revenue target of +3% LFL growth," he said.

Reckitt said its acquisition of Mead Johnson is "progressing well" and that is expects to close the deal by the end of the third quarter. It also reiterated that it had started a strategic review of its food business and that it remains "very confident that the strategic direction we are pursuing will continue to drive shareholder value."

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