Halma extends dividend record into 16th year: Safety legislation helps company raise profit

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HALMA, the sensors and detectors manufacturer based in Berkshire, has increased its dividend by 20 per cent for the 16th consecutive year.

The full-year payment was lifted from 2p to 2.4p as the company reported a 23 per cent increase in pre-tax profits. It made pounds 25.3m for the year to 2 April, compared with pounds 20.6m previously.

David Barber, chairman, said Halma was the only UK-listed company that had given consecutive increases in dividends of at least 20 per cent every year since 1979, when dividend restraint was lifted.

While Halma has been generous in its dividend policy, payments are also well covered by earnings per share. In 1993 dividend cover was 3.7 times and last year it was 3.6 times.

Earnings rose from 7.45p to 8.52p in the year.

Halma makes a wide variety of goods including components for fire detection equipment, laser sensors for lift door mechanisms and gas leak sensors.

Mr Barber said more than half its sales were driven by legislative requirements. It also sells more than half its products overseas.

He acknowledged that the company was dependent on the construction of new buildings, and the refurbishment of old ones, most of its sales. However, he said Halma sold across the globe. 'There will always be somewhere with a lively construction industry.'

NatWest Securities, the stockbroker, raised its profit estimate for the current year from pounds 29m to pounds 29.5m. Shares, up 6p yesterday to 210p, trade at a prospective price/earnings ratio of 21.