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BOC GROUP REPORTS RESULTS FOR THE HALF YEAR TO MARCH 31, 1992

 BOC GROUP REPORTS RESULTS FOR THE HALF YEAR TO MARCH 31, 1992
 MURRAY HILL, N.J., May 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The BOC Group today announced the following results:
 -- Turnover for the six months to March 31, 1992 was $2479 million, an increase of 8 percent over the same period a year ago. Profit before tax increased by 12 percent to $281.5 million, while earnings per share were up 11 percent to 36.85 cents.
 -- We are well placed to take advantage of any upturn when the current mood of optimism is reflected by real growth in economic activity.
 -- A second interim dividend of 19.0 cents payable on Aug. 3 is now declared, confirming the proposal in the annual report. This represents an 8 percent increase in the annual dividend.
 Chairman's half-year statement
 Turnover for the six months to March 31, 1992 was $2479 million, an increase of 8 percent over the same period a year ago. Operating profit rose by 10 percent to $345.8 million. Exchange rates were slightly favorable overall.
 Profit before tax increased by 12 percent to $281.5 million while earnings per share were up 11 percent to 36.85 cents.
 During this period our businesses have been operating in an unfavorable economic climate. Most of our markets failed to show tangible signs of recovery and even the hitherto buoyant markets in the North Pacific saw a slow down in growth rates, especially in Japan.
 Viewed against this background our earnings are satisfactory and in line with our expectations. We are well place to take advantage of any upturn when the current mood of optimism is reflected by real growth in economic activity.
 Our various businesses have performed differently in the prevailing recessionary climate. Our gases business again demonstrated its resilience and our health care business produced a more marked overall improvement. Our vacuum technology business was severely affected by the economic downturn, due largely to its dependence on the capital expenditure programs of its industrial and electronics customers. The results of our distribution services business were satisfactory.
 Cost containment efforts contributed substantially to operating profit improvements. They will continue to be pursued with vigor.
 We announced recently a reorganization of our health care business which will put increased emphasis on the world-wide marketing of its products.
 Gases and Related Products
 Turnover rose by 8 percent and operating profit rose by 6 percent. Gases margins remained broadly stable in our major markets. Despite the poor general economic environment there was some increase in demand for liquefied gases, while demand for tonnage supplies and compressed gases remained at depressed levels.
 Lately we have seen some signs of improvement in the U.S. liquefied gases market, but this is not evident yet in compressed gases or equipment markets. The situation is somewhat similar in the U.K.
 In the North Pacific the reduction in growth rates has persisted and this has slowed down our profit improvements in that region.
 We commissioned seven new plants during the six-month period, three each in Japan and the U.S., and one in Australia. Predictably, new plant construction around the world has slowed. This has in turn reduced the activity and profitability levels of our plant design and construction business.
 To meet the exacting demands of semiconductor manufacturers for ultra high purity gas technology, our company in Japan has recently completed an advanced gas technology center near Tokyo. This center, which is sited to collaborate with leading electronic companies, will add greatly to BOC's global capability to serve this industry.
 Health Care
 Turnover in our health care business improved 8 percent while operating profit increased by 22 percent. This was due to a strong performance by our pharmaceutical business in the U.S., and to the return to profitability of our home health care business, following its restructuring last year.
 We are preparing for the manufacture of our promising new inhalant anesthetic SUPRANE (desflurane) which has already been submitted for approval to the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration. A new facility is under construction alongside the existing facility in Guayama, Puerto Rico, which manufactures our leading anesthetic agent FORANE (isoflurane). Completion is expected early next year.
 In November we acquired a company developing a biosynthetic process for the production of pure albumin. This is a component of blood serum and is used in the operating theater as a plasma expander and to treat shock conditions in burn victims. It will fit well with our pharmaceutical product portfolio.
 Our medical equipment business achieved slightly lower operating profits than last year, but profit levels should increase during the second half of the year.
 Our international health care business has been reorganized into three divisions. The Pharmaceutical division will combine the anaesthetics and other pharmaceutical businesses in all markets. The Medical Products division will combine all our equipment businesses in the U.S., while the newly created international division will address the expansion of our medical products sales around the world. Over time we hope to achieve better international sales and marketing coverage and a lower cost base.
 Vacuum Technology & Distribution Services
 Turnover is this group of businesses was up by 5 percent, but profitability declined by 46 percent from last year.
 Edwards High Vacuum is largely dependent on capital investment and therefore has a vulnerability to cycles of expenditure. This is particularly true to the semiconductor industry in Japan, where many projects have been delayed. This, coupled with some order delays for large pharmaceutical freeze drying systems in Europe, had led to a sharp drop of profitability.
 Airco Coating Technology relies on activity in the construction industry, which remains at a low ebb. The business is currently unprofitable but improving, due in part to its new barrier coating technology for flexible packaging materials and to some business rationalization.
 BOC distribution services achieved a satisfactory performance with turnover growth coming from BOC's new businesses of Interbrand and BOC Baker.
 Interest, Borrowings and Taxes
 Gearing is unchanged with net borrowings at 32 percent of capital employed. Capital expenditure is running at a lower rate than last year and there is likely to be still lower gearing at the end of our financial year if the current trends and exchange rates persist. Our interest charge, which is marginally down on last year, is now more than five times covered by the operating profit.
 We have taken the opportunity of lower US interest rates to fix a proportion of our U.S. dollar borrowings until 1997 at an advantageous rate by the issue of a US$150 million Eurobond, and to increase the proportion of our borrowings in US dollars.
 Dividends
 A second interim payment of 19.0 cents payable on Aug. 3 is now declared, confirming the proposal in the annual report. This represents an 8 percent increase in the annual dividend.
 Once again we will give shareholders the option of taking additional shares instead of a cash dividend. A letter explaining the procedure will be sent, together with a form of election, later this year.
 THE BOC GROUP
 Group Results (unaudited)
 (Dollars in millions)
 Period ended Six months
 March 31 1992 1991
 Turnover, including share of related
 companies $2,479.4 $2,300.9
 Less: share of related companies 107.9 100.0
 Turnover, excluding related companies 2,371.5 2,200.9
 Operating profit (A) 345.8 315.4
 Interest (64.3) (65.1)
 Profit on ordinary activities before tax 281.5 250.3
 Tax (B) (93.4) (83.5)
 Profit on ordinary activities after tax 188.1 166.8
 Minority interests (12.3) (11.1)
 Earnings 175.8 155.7
 Earnings per share net basis,
 fully diluted (C)(in cents) 36.85 33.11
 NOTES
 (A) Operating profit includes the share of profits of related companies of $17.5 million (1991: $14.0 million).
 (B) Overseas tax included in the tax charge amounted to $51.7 million (1991: $45.8 million) and related companies tax to $4.8 million (1991: $4.2 million).
 (C) The number of shares used in the earnings per share calculation was 481.1 million (1991: 478.3 million).
 (D) Comparative data has been restated for changes in accounting policies as indicated in the 1991 report and accounts. Financial data for the year to Sept. 30, 1991 has been based on the full group accounts for that period. The 1991 accounts received an unqualified auditors' report and have been delivered to the Registrar of Companies.
 (E) All amounts shown in US dollars have been translated at the rate of $1 equals 0.578 pounds which was the rate of exchange applicable on March 31, 1992.
 SEGMENTAL INFORMATION
 Turnover and operating profit by business was as follows:
 1992 1991
 Operating Operating
 Turnover Profit Turnover Profit
 (Dollars in millions)
 Gases and related
 products $1,747.6 $ 249.9 $1,613.7 $ 235.3
 Health Care 503.6 86.2 465.0 70.4
 Vacuum & Distribution 228.2 11.8 218.0 21.8
 Corporate 0.0 (1.4) 0.0 (2.4)
 Continuing businesses 2,479.4 346.5 2,296.7 325.1
 Discontinued businesses 0.0 (0.7) 4.2 (9.7)
 TOTAL 2,479.4 345.8 2,300.9 315.4
 Turnover and profit before tax by region was as follows:
 1992 1991
 Pre-tax Pre-tax
 Turnover Profit Turnover Profit
 Europe 732.4 105.2 698.9 117.7
 Africa 215.2 40.0 199.3 36.8
 Americas 888.9 75.4 806.9 43.9
 Asia/Pacific 642.9 60.9 595.8 51.9
 TOTAL 2,479.4 281.5 2,300.9 250.3
 CONDENSED BALANCE SHEET (UNAUDITED)
 As at March 31, 1992
 3/31/92 9/30/91
 ($ million)
 Fixed assets
 Tangible assets $3,321.6 $3,252.6
 Related companies and other investments 259.5 249.6
 Working capital (excluding bank balances
 and short-term loans) 602.7 610.4
 TOTAL 4,183.8 4,112.6
 Shareholders' capital and reserves 2,264.2 2,212.7
 Minority shareholders' interests 256.2 260.9
 Non-current liabilities and provisions 320.2 308.8
 Net borrowings and finance leases 1,343.2 1,330.2
 TOTAL 4,183.8 4,112.6
 -0- 5/19/92
 /CONTACT: Nigel Rowe or Chris Dryden, 011-44-2-767-7222, or Patricia A. Secrist, 201-771-4860, all of BOC Group/ CO: BOC Group ST: New Jersey IN: SU: ERN


SH-OS -- NY029 -- 1783 05/19/92 11:46 EDT
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