The improvement came despite a pounds 2.5m exceptional write-off relating to the settlement out of court of a long contractual dispute. Howden will receive about pounds 7m in settlement from MT, a consortium to which it had supplied tunnel-digging equipment in Denmark. MT has dropped an pounds 80m compensation claim.
Profits were boosted by lower interest charges, thanks to a pounds 30m rights issue last August. The extra shares in issue meant that earnings fell to 1.8p (2.2p). Sales were 13 per cent higher at pounds 156m, and the interim dividend is increased 7 per cent to 0.75p.
Alan MacLachlan, company secretary, said profits had been lower in three out of Howden's four divisions. Only the Air and Gas operations, which supply fans for power stations, had done better.
Orders of construction equipment were held back by delays to the Jubilee Line extension. Packaging suffered from cutbacks in the food industry, and the aerospace division was hit by lower defence spending.