Harrison on target

TOM STEVENSON

Deputy City Editor

Harrisons & Crosfield, the chemicals, food and building materials conglomerate, said it was back on a growth tack and looking to spend a pounds 300m cash pile expanding its chemicals or building operations. It warned, however, that trading remained difficult for both divisions.

Interim pre-tax profits at the conglomerate, whose interests include the Harcros chain of building suppliers, pig farms and palm oil plantations, rose 10 per cent to pounds 66.4m after lower interest costs made up for lost profits from a group of Australian, Indonesian and UK businesses sold last year.

Reflecting the cautious tone of chief executive, Bill Turcan, the interim dividend was pegged at 3.6p but the shares closed 10.5p higher at 150.5p as the market focused on operating profits growth of 30 per cent from continuing activities.

The chemicals division, the largest profit contributor, jumped 35 per cent to pounds 28.6m as the chrome operations had a particularly strong first half. There were improvements across the board except pigments, hit by lower demand from the construction industry.

That also held back the timber and building arm, where a 6 per cent increase in sales translated into a pounds 3.2m fall in profits to pounds 10.7m.

Food and agriculture benefited from a turnaround in the pig operation and a surge in the price of palm oil.

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