British industrial group Johnson Matthey is the last European automaker to survive the pandemic in better shape than expected after a strong recovery in the Chinese auto market which supported profits.
FTSE 100 group’s optimistic results follow relaunches by its London-listed peers, Smiths Group and Melrose Industries, and German automakers, with China’s rebound late last year helping them out of the crisis .
Shares of the company, which makes catalytic converters, rose 3% to £ 31.92 by mid-morning in London and have climbed a third since the start of the year.
Global car production has been stronger than expected over the past six months, particularly in China, where strong demand has been fueled by the government stimulus and inventory replenishment, the group said.
Europe and the Americas have seen “steady improvement” in demand for cars since the end of April last year.
The 200-year-old company predicted underlying operating profit to be in the upper end of a £ 405-502million range for the year through March, up from £ 539million one year earlier.
It also announced a strategic review of its healthcare business, which represents around 5% of its revenue, in order to focus on the greatest growth opportunities arising from the pandemic.
In addition to the strength of the automotive market, it benefited from an “exceptionally strong” performance for its platinum group metals refining and trading activities, which were boosted by more volatile and higher than average precious metal prices. . In addition, its bottom line was helped by around £ 60million in cost reductions.
The group expects a further recovery in some markets next year, citing an increase in orders for the heaviest category of American trucks.
Jefferies analyst Jaroslaw Pominkiewicz has estimated that the healthcare industry, which produces active pharmaceutical ingredients, could be worth around £ 2 billion. “Health’s strategic review could lead to significant value creation for the group,” he said.
The group plans to use the cash from its clean air business, which makes
catalytic converters for gasoline cars, to invest in
materials-based technologies for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
“We are generating cash flow from our most established businesses to invest in our suite of exciting sustainable technologies that will enable decarbonization and improve circularity,” said CEO Robert MacLeod.
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