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Blue Circle shares hit by Malaysian worries

Blue Circle Industries, the cement group, saw its shares fall 7.5p to 395p yesterday after failing to reassure investors about the future of its large Malaysian operations in the wake of recent economic upheavals there, writes Magnus Grimond.

Keith Orrell-Jones, chief executive, said he saw "no reason" for a recession in the country. "My judgement is there will be some slowing down in growth", he said. But he admitted that this could still have an effect on Blue Circle, given that cement demand runs at around double the rate of economic growth, while the fall in the value of the ringgitt could hit translation of profits.

Analysts yesterday downgraded annual forecasts for the group from as high as pounds 356m to as low as pounds 335m on the back of the Malaysian problems. Reporting a 22 per cent rise in underlying profits to pounds 142m for the first half, Blue Circle remained optimistic about the outlook in the UK for next year, even if second half demand is running at only slightly above the rate of the first six months of 1997.

Investment column, page 18