P&G JOINS EUROPEAN DISK WAR

LONDON -- Call it the disk wars. Procter & Gamble this spring is due to step up the battle for the European detergents market with the launch of Ariel Discs, a detergent in tablet form. The launch follows a year-long trial of the product in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, England.Ariel Discs will be introduced in the United Kingdom and other European markets in April, a spokeswoman said, although she declined

LONDON -- Call it the disk wars. Procter & Gamble this spring is due to step up the battle for the European detergents market with the launch of Ariel Discs, a detergent in tablet form. The launch follows a year-long trial of the product in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, England.

Ariel Discs will be introduced in the United Kingdom and other European markets in April, a spokeswoman said, although she declined to provide further details. She had no information on a U.S. launch of the product.

Ariel Discs is aimed at blunting the recent success of Lever Brothers, the Unilever plc subsidiary, which introduced Persil Tablets in May 1998. The product has helped LeverBrothers regain market share in the United Kingdom, where Persil Tablets has an 8.5% share and its brands have climbed back to more than 30% overall.

Procter & Gamble remains the overall market leader, with its brands representing more than 50% of the British market. But it admitted last month that its European detergents volumes have fallen partially because of "products related to laundry tablet initiatives." Both products are key to Lever Brothers and Procter & Gamble, especially since they retail for 20% to 25% above their other brands.