Halma blots copybook with pounds 29m

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The Independent Online

Halma's record as one of the UK's best performing quoted companies over the past 20 years was dented yesterday, with the shares falling 10p to 191p as the environmental and technology group's annual results failed to meet analysts' forecasts.

Profits before tax for the year to 1 April rose 17 per cent to another record pounds 29.2m, but most analysts had pencilled in a result of pounds 31m. The outcome also fell short of the most pessimistic estimate of pounds 29.5m by NatWest Securities, the broking house that warned about slower organic growth in March.

A rise in total dividends from 2.37p to 2.85p was also below expectations of a 2.9p payout.

David Barber, chairman since the shares traded at only 0.5p in 1973, said some subsidiaries that underperformed in 1993/94 had made only "partial recoveries". However, he added, this left "scope for further improvement in the current year".

The trading picture is mixed. Demand in the UK remains flat, but direct exports and overseas sales continue to thrive. Total sales grew 14 per cent to almost pounds 154m, driven by a 20 per cent rise in exports to pounds 48.3m.

Eight businesses have been bought since March last year, and there is scope to acquire more with net cash of pounds 12.7m.