Surprise profits rise boosts BOC

BOC, the industrial gases group, yesterday surprised the stock market with a better-than-expected jump in earnings, just three months after a veiled profits warning triggered a big share price drop.

The latest news, which sent the group's shares surging by more than 5 per cent, was accompanied by a plea from Danny Rosenkranz, the recently appointed chief executive, that BOC had been "misunderstood".

"To say we're frustrated with the way we're seen by the markets is a bit strong, but we are clearly disappointed," he complained. "The task we have set is to explain our strategy in more depth. We are a lot more exciting than we are seen out there."

BOC's profits in the year to the end of September were a record pounds 444.9m, while turnover increased by 7 per cent to pounds 4.02bn. The company declared a 7.4 per cent increase in its dividend for the year ahead to 29p.

Gas analysts apparently took the plea to heart, with shares closing up 44.5p at 880.5p.

Mr Rosenkranz insisted his profits warning in August had been widely misinterpreted. At the time BOC mentioned problems in its Edwards vacuum products division following the drop in growth at some of its biggest customers, the leading computer chip manufacturers.

The company revealed yesterday a 28 per cent increase in operating profits to pounds 90.3m for the vacuum products business. Though some orders from the semiconductor industry were likely to be deferred, the business remained highly profitable.

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