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Cable brings copper windfall for Wassall

The soaring copper price has brought a windfall gain for Wassall, the acquisitive conglomerate which last June paid £177m for General Cable, one of the leading US producers of copper wires.

Over two-fifths of a 51 per cent jump in underlying profits to £41.8m last year arose from this source. But when he unveiled the figures yesterday, chief executive Chris Miller was keen to downplay its importance. "We are not trying to say this isn't a real profit - it's money in the bank," he said, adding: "We are managing the company on a non-copper basis."

On that basis, he says the new addition, which added a total of £17.9m to profits, including copper, is doing well. It has already won a vote of confidence from the telephone company USWest which withdrew business from General when it thought the company was facing financial difficulties. The arrival of Wassall has prompted it to return with a contract worth 5 per cent of the company's $1billion annual revenues.

Existing businesses, which range from bottle tops to the US equivalent of Polyfilla, saw operating profits rise from £27.2 million to £28.9m. They were restrained by a £900,000 deficit at bottling line manufacturer Techno Pack.Wassall also charged £19.9m reorganisation costs at General Cable.

Earnings per share, excluding the exceptional, rose 35 per cent to 15.4p, held back by last year's £92m rights which accompanied the acquisition. A final dividend of 2.95p takes the total 24 per cent ahead to 4.1p.