Bespak boosts payout despite slide in profits

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The Independent Online
SHARES in Bespak, the troubled medical equipment supplier, jumped 4 per cent yesterday as the company increased its interim dividend despite a sharp reversal in profits, writes Robert Cole.

The dividend was lifted 0.2p to 4.2p while taxable profits for the half year to 29 October dropped to pounds 2.9m from pounds 5m. In the wake of proposed healthcare reforms in the US, orders for Bespak's products have fallen. As news of its problems emerged, the shares slumped from a peak of 707p in March this year to 288p in November. They closed at 320p yesterday, up 12p.

Bespak was worst hit in the US, where profits fell from pounds 2.4m to pounds 700,000. Bob King, chairman, said: 'Operating income suffered . . . due to the group's cost base having grown in anticipation of increased activity, but sales did not meet expectations.'

In the UK, where Bespak is best known for making the plastic applicators that asthma sufferers use to take Ventolin, profits decreased from pounds 2.4m to pounds 2.2m.

Earnings per share fell to 7.5p from 13.2p. If the total dividend rises in line with the interim, gross yield will be 4.1 per cent.

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