Jeffrey Herbert, chief executive of the industrial group, said the search for an international manufacturing business had already cost pounds 500,000 without success. He admitted that the cash was earning a poor return in the bank but said shareholders had urged him not to rush into a bad purchase.
Charter acquired its war chest last year as part of a simplification of the complex shareholdings which characterised the mining industry. The disposal of a 38 per cent stake in Johnson Matthey for pounds 330m was followed by the pounds 235m buy-in of Minorco's 36 per cent holding in Charter.
Underlying profits were broadly unchanged, but the pre-tax figure fell sharply from pounds 289m to pounds 50.1m after Johnson Matthey ended its contribution. Earnings per share fell from 243p to 36.4p. The dividend was raised by 0.5p to 22.5p.