High-tech focus lifts Matthey

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The Independent Online

Johnson Matthey, the biggest gold refiner in the world, showed that its focus on high-tech value-added products is reaping dividends.

Group operating profit rose 23 per cent to pounds 100.4m for the year ending March. All divisions contributed to the rise, with a spectacular 52 per cent jump in the materials technology arm lifting profits to pounds 42.3m from pounds 27.9m.

Group pre-tax profit, excluding exceptional items, rose 25 per cent to pounds 96.1m, reflecting the gathering momentum of the programme of rationalisation begun by David Davies, chairman, five years ago.

The improvement in the European and US car markets helped lift the operating profit of the catalytic systems division by 6 per cent to pounds 29.8m. Continued expansion, with the opening of the first auto catalyst plant in South- east Asia, the group's seventh worldwide, and the launch of a new heavy- duty diesel catalyst, helped offset the loss of its General Motors contract at the end of last year.

The precious metals division moved ahead 7 per cent, with operating profit at pounds 22.2m on the back of strong demand for platinum coupled with record sales to the industrial and jewellery markets.

Improved growth in the ceramic material market helped the group's 50 per cent share in Cookson Matthey Ceramics, combined with the group's former colour and print division, to an operating profit of pounds 15.5m, up 18 per cent on 1993/4.

Mr Davies said he expected further growth in the electronic materials division, which supplies the fragmented $200bn semi-conductor industry.

Earnings per share were up 23 per cent to 33.7p and the dividend up 18 per cent to 13.5p.