Safety drive boosts First Technology

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The Independent Online
FIRST TECHNOLOGY, the car safety devices company, more than doubled profits in the six months to 31 October. It is also restarting dividend payments and yesterday the shares rose 14p to 292p, writes Robert Cole.

The company has been buoyed by greater consumer interest in safety, which has prompted motor manufacturers to include more safety devices on new cars.

Sales of a sensor that cuts off fuel supply in the event of a crash have been particularly strong and First Technology is making it available as an accessory as well as a component fitted by the manufacturer. Pre-tax profit rose 118 per cent to pounds 1.8m. Sales rose 42 per cent to pounds 16.1m. Sixty per cent of First Technology's sales are in North America, where it reports strong growth in car sales. Activity in the UK, particularly with Rover, has been encouraging but recession in Europe and Japan impeded the advance.

As well as the fuel cut-off First Technology makes sensors for seat belt pretensioners - gadgets that tighten belts in an accident - and devices that open centrally locked doors automatically.

It also makes dummies for crash testing. These cost between pounds 15,000 and pounds 30,000 each and with parts replacement last about 30 tests. The company said the business had suffered from the economic slowdown in Japan but increased activity in South Korea had compensated.

Earnings per share rose from 4.2p to 7.36p and the dividend is 1p. Dr Fred Westlake, chairman, said the intention was to lift dividends in line with earnings but added: 'We wish to maintain a level of cover appropriate to a growing company.'