BOC looks East to counter UK gloom to

Soaring sales of industrial gases in the United States helped BOC Group to beat City expectations by reporting first- half profits of £194m, before tax and exceptionals - a 12 per cent increase in earnings .

In contrast, conditions in the UK remained flat, with a combination of slack demand and competitive pressures, and the company said it will be looking at other markets, notably South-east Asia, for future growth.

Like-for-like sales in the six months to the end of March were up 7 per cent on the same period last year, at £1.79bn.

Operating profit from the sale of gases in the US soared 48 per cent on the previous year. The company has recently won many new orders to supply US customers and anticipates doubling its gas business there.

Things were not as promising in the UK. Pat Dyer, the deputy chairman and chief executive, said: "The UK economy was not as good as that in the US and we have had several competitors come into the market. This keeps pressure on our ability to raise prices.

"When you are number one, and have a major market share, it tends to attract competitors. But we have done a good job at protecting our market share, and that's what its going to continue to be about in the UK," he added.

BOC had entered into a number of joint ventures with Chinese partners, and now forecast that the day when sales in South-east Asia contributed more to company profits than those in Europe was not too far away.

The company expects a better performance in future from its healthcare business, now that problems with making Suprane, the new anaesthetic, had been resolved. BOC said that its profits from this sector were modest in the period.

Mr Dyer said: "Future growth will come from focusing on sales to key industries around the world. This will allow us to optimise sales to steel or glass companies on the international scene. We want to deal with our customers wherever they choose to go, like Pilkington in Shanghai."

Lucas Herrmann, an analyst with James Capel, said: "We are encouraged by the results. The numbers are slightly better than expected." Mr Herrmann has increased his full year forecast by £10m to £410m.

The shares increased 13p up at 786p, bringing the total increase in the share price to £1 since April. With a price earnings ratio of 14.8, Mr Herrmann said: "The price is up with events. I can't see it going much further."

A second interim dividend of 12.4p is to be paid.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory