However, the move prompted City analysts to downgrade their profit forecasts for the full year. Martin Evans, chemicals analyst at Hoare Govett, trimmed his estimate from pounds 365m to pounds 338m. 'No one is entirely sure about the warning but trading conditions seem a bit disappointing,' he said.
BOC blamed difficult trading conditions for the expected decline in profits. 'The US recovery in the last few months has slowed, recovery in Australia has stalled, the Japanese economy is still affected by policy paralysis and, while the UK shows recovery, its focus seems to be on sectors which have so far had relatively little impact on gas demand,' it said.
Operating profit before interest grew by 4 per cent to pounds 325m in the first nine months, but after excluding currency benefits, it was down 1 per cent.
The gas products division boosted operating profits from pounds 217m to pounds 228m. The vacuum and distribution side almost doubled profits to pounds 23m and healthcare profits rose from pounds 73m to pounds 73.7m. Interest charges rose from pounds 55m to pounds 64m.
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