Overseas demand boosts Farnell

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FARNELL Electronics yesterday signalled a new focus on distribution, opened its first base in the Far East, and named Robert Horton, Railtrack chairman, as a non-executive director, writes Tom Stevenson.

Richard Hanwell, chairman, said Mr Horton's appointment, together with that of Barry Bramley, a main board director at BAT, reflected the rapid growth of Farnell in overseas markets. More than 40 per cent of sales are now outside the UK.

In the first half to July, Farnell increased pre-tax profits by 36 per cent to pounds 28.7m, benefiting from the acquisition of the Multicomponents distribution business from ITT last December. Sales rose 77 per cent as a result of the purchase to pounds 260.5m, although underlying growth was 13.5 per cent. The interim dividend was increased by 19 per cent to 3.8p.

Mr Hanwell said investment would be focused on the company's distribution arm, including a drive to introduce catalogues to the Far East. A procurement office had been opened in Singapore.

The company was in negotiations that might lead to the distribution of non-electronic products, he said.

The shares, which have risen fivefold since 1989 despite a poor performance so far this year, closed 1p lower at 531p.