Charter contains drop in earnings

CHARTER Consolidated managed to restrict its profit fall to 3.8 per cent, despite operating in some of the hardest-hit industries.

Pre-tax profit in the six months to the end of September was pounds 37.1m, compared with pounds 38.5m in the same period last year. Earnings per share were down from 22.4p to 21.8p, and the interim dividend was unchanged at 7p. The shares rose 3p to 553p.

The biggest contributor was Charter's 39 per cent holding in the precious metals technology group Johnson Matthey. The holding yielded a profit of pounds 12.7m, against pounds 12.5m last year.

Niche engineering and construction activities managed directly by the group raised their operating profits from pounds 16.6m to pounds 16.9m by reducing its dependence on the UK and by cutting costs: 2,500 jobs have been shed in the past two years.

The mining equipment division, Anderson Group, held its profit at pounds 2m, despite British Coal's contraction. Nigel Robson, Charter's finance director, said: 'The scale of the run-down has been no surprise to us, though we thought it would take a little longer.' The division was concentrated on to one site in Scotland last year and exports have been boosted.

Pandrol, the rail track equipment company, increased its profit from pounds 6.6m to pounds 6.7m, thanks to increased exports. The continuing road maintenance programme in the north of England, combined with a 20 per cent cut in the workforce, has allowed the quarrying group Hargreaves to raise its profits by pounds 200,000 to pounds 1.8m, while Cape, the building products company, held its earnings at pounds 6.4m.