Johnson Matthey, the Cambridge UK precious metals technology powerhouse, has hoisted first quarter revenues six per cent to £657 million despite lower precious metal prices, which dented profits.Chairman Tim Stevenson was telling today’s AGM that steady growth in demand in North America and Asia continued to counter “the softer” European markets.
From April 1 to date, the company says higher sales and good growth in operating profit from its Environmental Technologies and Fine Chemicals Divisions were offset by a substantial reduction in operating profit from Precious Metals, which was hit by lower prices.
This put the brake on profit growth but underlying PBT was still £99.9 million (Q1 2011/12: £98.2m).
Stevenson said the group's balance sheet remained strong and at June 30 net debt was £470 million. Only last month the company arranged new long term loans for around $25m in the US private placement market.
Environmental Technologies Division sales in the quarter were up 12 per cent to £465m and operating profit well ahead of last year. Emission Control Technologies’ sales were 11 per cent up at £370m. Sales of light duty vehicle catalysts grew well in North America and Asia but were marginally lower in Europe. Sales in the Fine Chemicals Division were flat at £69m but the division achieved good growth in operating profit.
Looking ahead Stevenson said that while visibility remained low, demand for the group's products was steady with growth in North America and Asia offsetting softer European markets.
He added: “If market conditions and precious metal prices remain as they are today the outlook for the group in the second quarter of 2012/13 is expected to be broadly similar to that of the first.
“For the year as a whole, we expect that growth in Environmental Technologies and Fine Chemicals Divisions will be offset by continued weakness in Precious Metal Products Division.”