BOC turns a corner as takeover nears

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The Independent Online
AIR LIQUIDE and Air Products, the Franco-US consortium taking over industrial gases giant BOC is striking just as the company turns a corner on profits, yesterday's results showed.

Unveiling a host of improvements to the business environment, BOC said even currency translations into sterling were set to work in its favour for the first time in three years. A pick-up in the semiconductor industry, where BOC sells its vacuum technology to keep manufacturing environments dust-free, was the main driver for a jump in profits for the third quarter of the year.

Demand for its products from the steel industry in Britain and the US was also rising. And while there was little growth seen in Britain, many other economies were improving, most notably the Pacific region outside Japan.

Stripping out exceptional items, pre-tax profits for the third quarter to 30 June jumped 4 per cent to pounds 106.6m from pounds 102.6m on turnover of pounds 826.8m against pounds 819m before.

BOC'S chief executive Danny Rosenkranz said: "More favourable market conditions in some territories, more favourable exchange rates and the increasing benefit of our restructuring and continuous improvement programmes are reflected in better margins and an improvement in underlying gases profit, compared with a year ago."

For the nine month period, pre-tax profits came in at pounds 273m, against pounds 275.4m for the same period the previous year. Turnover was pounds 2.18bn, compared with pounds 2.56bn for the same three quarters of the previous year.

Air Liquide and Air Products are buying BOC for pounds 7.2bn.