BOC benefits from fall in the pound: Chief executive warns against too-strict regulation of private briefings for City

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The Independent Online
PATRICK Rich, chairman and chief executive of the gases group BOC, warned yesterday that a volatile, rumour-driven market would be created if the rules on companies talking to the City were drawn too tightly.

Releasing BOC's interim figures, he said he hoped the area would not become so heavily regulated the relationship would become impossible. 'There is much to be said for an open, fluid dialogue,' he observed.

Last week the Stock Exchange censured London International Group, the condom manufacturer, for passing on price-sensitive information to analysts that was not made available to the market generally.

The move was seen as a stiffening of the exchange's attitude to the extent to which companies can legitimately give guidance to selected investors, analysts and journalists.

In the six months to March, BOC's pre-tax profits rose 12 per cent to pounds 182m on turnover up by a similar degree to pounds 1.59bn. But the figures were flattered by the impact of sterling's devaluation. Excluding currency factors, profits rose by about 3 per cent.

Mr Rich said BOC had detected signs of improved trading in the US, UK and Australia. But in all three markets the recovery was far weaker than at the equivalent stages of previous economic cycles. He admitted sales of Forane, the group's successful anaesthetic, were beginning to suffer from the loss in the US in January of patent protection, but said Suprane, BOC's new anaesthetic, had been well received.

An interim dividend of 11.6p (11p) is being paid. The shares, which continue to be affected by worries about Forane sales, fell 17p to 681p.