Building downturn causes dip at Charter

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CHARTER Consolidated, the industrial conglomerate with a big South African shareholder base, yesterday reported a dip in taxable profits from pounds 77.5m to pounds 73.8m for the year to 31 March.

The results reflect a sharp downturn at the group's building products and services division, where trading profits fell from pounds 17m to pounds 12.5m.

However, Charter's other three activities saw buoyant trading. The rail track equipment business lifted its profits from pounds 10.8m to pounds 11.8m thanks to a strong export performance from Pandrol, its railway fasteners subsidiary.

Trading profits from mining equipment rose from pounds 1.5m to pounds 2.8m, partly helped by acquisitions. Quarrying and coal mining activities increased profits from pounds 2.7m to pounds 3m.

Johnson Matthey, the platinum company in which Charter owns a 38.5 per cent stake, brought in virtually unchanged profits of pounds 25.5m.

Although interest income slipped from pounds 19.2m to pounds 14.6m, the group's net cash improved by about pounds 20m to pounds 122m last year. The company says it hopes to use its cash for acquisitions.

There was an extraordinary profit of pounds 14.8m on the disposal of investments and property, after taking pounds 4m of closure costs and restructuring costs into account.

Earnings per share fell from 44.6p to 42.5p. A final dividend of 14.5p lifts the total from 21p to 21.5p. Analysts are looking for taxable profits of pounds 75m this year.

The shares eased back 2p to 538p. About 36 per cent of the company's equity is ultimately controlled by Anglo American, the South African giant. Another 15 per cent is held by other South African interests.