BOC sees results rise 10% to pounds 251m

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The Independent Online
THE elimination of losses on its US home healthcare business helped BOC Group, the industrial gases and healthcare business, to report pounds 250.9m taxable profit in the nine months to June, up 10 per cent.

The group sold a third of its US home healthcare business, Glasrock - which supplies wheelchairs, crutches and other equipment for use at home - at the end of last year. That has helped it recover from 'double figure' losses last year to about break-even this year.

It is negotiating the sale of the remainder to Homedco Group of California for dollars 72m (pounds 39m), slightly above asset value. Last year, it took a pounds 19.6m provision against the business.

Glasrock's improvement helped to boost profits in the group's healthcare division from pounds 68.3m to pounds 76.5m while its margins improved from 16.2 per cent to 17.4 per cent. BOC said the order book for medical products 'remains healthy'.

Industrial gases and related products continued to prove relatively recession-resistant, with profits up 4.8 per cent to pounds 217.5m on sales ahead by a similar amount to pounds 1.5bn. The group said this was mainly due to cost-cutting and efficiencies, adding 'there was not a lot of volume growth'.

More than a third of the group's business is in the US. While the group was benefiting from exchange gains in the first half, the recent weakness of the dollar meant that was largely reversed in the third quarter. Full-year profits are likely to suffer if the weakness continues.

Interest costs fell 5.7 per cent to pounds 54.9m as borrowings fell from pounds 768.9m to pounds 667m, 30 per cent of net assets. Earnings per share were 33.06p. The shares closed 17p higher at 601p.

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