Cookson braced for a hit as Europe reins in its steel production

One of the UK's oldest industrial companies has warned its profits will be materially below hopes due to a slide in European steel production.

Cookson, which makes the pipes and valves that control the molten steel as it flows through the steel mills, said core markets in its Vesuvius engineered ceramics division were bearing the brunt of the global economic downturn.

The division, which accounts for two thirds of Cookson's sales, makes about half its revenues from the global steel industry, which saw average monthly steel production volumes in July and August fall by some 3 per cent, excluding China.

"Most notably, Europe was 11 per cent lower and the US 3 per cent lower, and in September, rather than the normal seasonal strengthening, there have been signs of some further weakening," Cookson said.

The FTSE 250 company warned full-year results will be materially below its previous hopes, triggering a 12 per cent slide in its shares to 539p.

The company, which has 15,500 employees, has cut back on temporary workers and overtime, set out a hiring freeze and started negotiating to cut staff working hours.