Troubled Laporte loses finance director

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Laporte, the chemicals group that saw its shares plunge in December after a shock profits warning, yesterday announced the unexpected resignation of Bill Hoskins, finance director.

Mr Hoskins, who was on a two-year contract at an annual salary of pounds 170,000, has agreed a severance payment of around pounds 150,000. He could receive a further pounds 28,000 from exercising options at the current price.

The shares dipped 2p to 661p after yesterday's announcement. It is the third blow to Laporte since Jim Leng, the former chief executive of Low & Bonar, took over last September. In November, Ken Minton, Mr Leng's predecessor, resigned just five weeks after moving up to the chairman's position and in the following month Laporte saw its shares crash 173p to 610p after it announced an pounds 85m restructuring provision and a profits warning.

But Mr Leng yesterday strenuously denied that the latest news had any connection with his shake-up of the business.

"I know people will try to connect the issues, but that's not where I am coming from on them," he said. "Bill felt after Christmas that he did not want to continue and he wanted to make the break clean."

Mr Hoskins, 43, had been with the group for 13 years. Mr Minton left after 14 years as managing director and chief executive. Laporte is searching for a replacement for Mr Hoskins and a new appointment is expected in a couple of months.

Laporte said no further management changes were in the offing, although it may seek to bring more non-executive directors on to the board.

Asked about the progress of the restructuring programme, Mr Leng said: "I remain confident it will be delivered on time and in line with the plan we announced at the time."

After the December announcement, analysts expected Laporte to close about 10 per cent of its 100 plants, leading to hundreds of redundancies.