Bottom Line: Hickson unease

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The Independent Online
THE MOST promising part of Hickson, the chemicals concern, supplies detergent compounds.

Unilever's Persil is an important client and, partly thanks to Persil Power, the controversial new washing powder, Hickson's most successful division managed a 92 per cent increase in profits for the six months to 30 June.

This made up for reduced contributions from Hickson's two other divisions, so overall pre-tax profits were flat at pounds 12m. Earnings ticked up to 5.6p from 4.8p and the dividend was held at 2.85p.

But if Power is withdrawn Hickson would lose a profitable supply contract. That fear was responsible for yesterday's 9p fall in the shares to 168p. The forward earnings multiple is an appropriately discounted 16 times and the yield, assuming a full-year payout maintained at 8p, is 6 per cent. This may not be all that cheap.