Oxford Instruments interims rise 19%

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PRESIDENT Bill Clinton's healthcare reforms put a brake on US trading for Oxford Instruments, but the advanced electronics group still managed a 19 per cent rise in profits, writes Russell Hotten.

Peter Williams, chairman and chief executive, said US health chiefs were deferring purchasing decisions, and he did not expect the sector to bounce back in the foreseeable future.

Oxford's pre-tax profits of pounds 5.1m, against pounds 4.3m, in the six months to 26 September were greeted with an 8p rise in the shares to 296p. The market shrugged off news that the company was still awaiting a second order for its synchrotron.

The first synchrotron, a pounds 16m device enabling semiconductor makers to pack more circuits on to microchips, was developed with IBM. Oxford has spent pounds 6.1m building a second synchrotron.

Profits at Magnet Technology, the health scanner joint venture with Siemens, were only marginally down on last time. Superconducting Technology performed well, and operating losses at Plasma Technology were cut.

With about 85 per cent of Oxford's sales made overseas, the group was greatly helped by the lower value of sterling. Turnover was pounds 48.6m, up 8 per cent, and new orders rose 10 per cent.