The pounds 7m reversal from a profit of pounds 2.5m to a loss of pounds 4.5m was caused by delays in launching a new networking package. The division was also responsible for an exceptional pounds 5.9m charge to cover the loss on disposal of Brook Street Computers, a software business.
Gary Allen, chief executive, said the computer division was not for sale but admitted that it was not part of IMI's long-term plans.
Despite the problems, IMI's full- year figures showed a small increase in pre-tax profits from pounds 68m to pounds 70.2m. Earnings per share rose from 13.6p to 14.5p and an unchanged final dividend of 5.8p maintained the total at 10p.
Building products, up 23 per cent, benefited from eliminated losses at two businesses and a capital expenditure programme that has increased productivity and reduced costs in the copper tube operation.
The drinks dispensing business shrugged off a sluggish market in Britain, where many pubs are closing, to register record profits, thanks to a good year in the US.
In special engineering, losses from the titanium operations, which supply the aerospace industry, were sharply reduced while Birmingham Mint, which manufactures money, had a good year.
Mr Allen said IMI had spent only pounds 7m on acquisitions during the year because vendors, especially in Europe, were still asking too much. The shares rose 7p to 347p.
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