United Industries’ smaller than expected 1996 loss and bigger than expected dividend appeared to interest the City more than the sudden departure of chief executive Tom Brown.
The shares of this springs and engineering plastics maker perked 10% to 69p on the bullish news that with the sale of loss-making Holden Hydroman, this will be a year of `positive cash flow generation’.
Chairman Ken Coates and two non-executive directors will hold the fort pending the appointment of Brown’s successor.
No reason was given for his departure, but observers say there were differences over the direction in which the company should go.
While there was a loss at pre-tax level of £446,000 against a profit of £3.54m, operating profits on continuing businesses were up 26% at £3.76m on sales ahead 12% at £38m, and with margins improved a percentage point to just under 10%.
The improved profitability with Holden gone decided the board to lift the dividend by 6.6% to 2.4p.