Strong sales of Durex and the group’s footcare range helped SSL International to a 65 per cent increase in half-year profits.

Durex sales increased by almost 10 per cent in the period as the product sold well in the US and eastern Europe and SSL extended its offering in Durex Play, its lubricants and vibrator range.

Garry Watts, chief executive, said SSL was trying to combine responsible sex with helping people have better sex. He said he was expecting the Play range to have annual sales of £10m.

SSL’s range of vibrators hit the headlines earlier this year when Boots pulled back from a deal to stock them. The products are now on sale in more than 200 Superdrug stores.

Alongside Durex, the footcare division reported sales up by more than 18 per cent. SSL said sales had been boosted by the launch in Spain and Italy of Partyfeet, the gel cushioned insoles that make wearing high heels more comfortable.

Mr Watts said he was confident the group would hit its target of doubling operating profits to £52m by 2007.

Scholl footwear, however, continued to disappoint, as sales fell 9 per cent to £27.8m. Mr Watts said: “Its not something that I’m reaching for the panic button about.” But he admitted that if sales were not up by next summer further action would be taken. In the six months to September 30 pre-tax profits jumped from £10.5m to £17.3m, on sales that were 9.5 per cent higher at £222.5m (£203.2m).

Earnings per share rose to 6p (3.8p). SSL shares closed 1¼p lower at 277¼p.

FT comment

■Part of SSL’s Play range might have been too kinky for Boots, but the group is showing that sex can be a money spinner. Recent success is about management as much as Durex and the footcare range. It now looks as if SSL might hit its operating target early. However, the group lacks scale for a global company, which can either be remedied by SSL making acquisitions or being bought by an overlapping group such as Reckitt Benckiser. Full-year profits should come in at about £38m. The shares trade on a forward multiple of 20 but there would be more upside if a bid emerges.

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