Oxford Instruments chief quits after loss

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The Independent Online

Oxford Instruments, the scientific research group, surprised the market yesterday by announcing a first-half loss and the immediate departure of Dr Andrew Mackintosh, the chief executive.

Dr Mackintosh had been at the company for 20 years, eight as chief executive, and will be replaced on an interim basis by the chairman, Nigel Keen. Negotiations are ongoing as to the severance pay for Dr Mackintosh but the company said it would probably be within the terms of his contract.

Last year Dr Mackintosh's pay package was £388,000, including a £125,000 bonus.

The company said it had a list of possible replacements but the new person in charge would be unlikely to take the reins until April. In a note to clients, the broker Cazenove said the board changes were "an interesting development".

City sources said that the company may be attempting to appoint a new chief executive with a less scientific background. Oxford Instruments, despite its cutting-edge technology, has failed to turn its technological advantage into reliable profits.

Analysts said failure to find a suitable replacement for Dr Mackintosh could leave the company vulnerable to a takeover bid. Mr Keen said: "This company needs somebody who can put their foot on the accelerator with our excellent new products".

Half-year results to 30 September were, despite the loss, slightly ahead of many analysts' expectations. The company reported a loss after tax of £1.2m, although it maintained the interim dividend at 2.4p.

Oxford Instruments warned the market that an inventory reduction at Verian, one of its customers, had reduced its first-half sales.Oxford's shares closed down 4p at 191p, having hit a low of 183.5p.

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