Revenue growth across all four divisions helps ever-reliable manufacturer Halma (HLMA) deliver another forecast-beating set of results and up its dividend by 7%.
It is the 36th consecutive year Halma has raised its pay-out by 5% or more, a move cheered by investors and sending shares 7% higher to 807p.
But investors should be wary of getting too carried away: interim results for the period featured one extra trading week compared to a year earlier which may have added as much as 3.8% to underlying sales growth of 8%.
Process Safety was the only division where performance came under pressure from falling energy prices. It posted a 1% decline in organic growth but overall revenues were 4.2% higher helped by acquisitions and positive currency moves.
‘When you have a diversified portfolio like ours, you will always have some sectors performing well and others under pressure,’ concedes chief executive Andrew Williams, speaking after results.
‘Last year it was Environmental Analysis that struggled, this year it is Process Safety.’
Management is focusing on cost control in the Process Safety unit which relies on oil and gas companies for around 40% of its sales.
But Williams sees opportunities to develop new applications for the division’s products via research and development spending and also, potentially, by acquisition.
‘The four sectors approach we have taken are part of a long term strategy and we are looking for acquisitions and organic growth across all four,’ William says.
‘If there was a sector where we did not see opportunities we would make disposals and we take a pragmatic view. But we are long term investors and as long as we see those opportunities we will invest.
‘And at the moment we see those opportunities across the board.’
On 5 October 2015, Halma acquired Firetrace, a provider of automatic fire sprinkler systems, as part of its Infrastructure Safety sector. Williams expects future acquisition spend to be balanced reasonably evenly across all four business lines.
Pre-tax-profit gained 6% to £50.2 million in the 27 weeks to 3 October 2015 and earnings per share was 13.3p versus 12.6p in the prior period.