Engineering company Morgan Crucible is confident about its second half with all three of its businesses growing sales, as it reported a doubling in first-half profit.
Morgan Crucible, which makes carbon and ceramic components for industry, said its pretax profit rose to £30.1 million in the half year to July 4, helped by sales of body armour to British and US armed forces.
Total turnover was down 14 per cent at £336 million,but excluding a disposal was up 12 per cent from £301 million.
The operating margin at the Windsor-based group, which has operations at Stourporton-Severn and Rugby, rose to 10.6 per cent from 8.5 per cent. The results were at the top end of analysts' expectations which had been raised following a June 28 trading update.
Chief executive Warren Knowlton said: "Our strong market positions and current trading give the board confidence that the group will make further progress in the second half.
"We are well on our way to mid-teen margins, which I said three years ago we should hit, as a company, in good times."
Yesterday was Mr Knowlton's last day as chief executive and comes as Morgan Crucible nears the end of a three-year restructuring which has produced a marked improvement in the company's fortunes.
The overhaul was engineered by Mr Knowlton, who took the reins in January 2003.
When he joined, Morgan Crucible shares were 54.25p.
Since then they have outperformed the broader stock market by 170 per cent and in early trading yesterday they were flat at 238p.
First-half sales at Insulating Ceramics, the biggest unit which makes parts for car brakes, airbags and exhaust systems, rose 12.9 per cent to £145.8 million, helped by price increases to offset higher raw material and energy prices.
Sales at Carbon, which has added capacity to meet demand for body armour, rose 5.6 per cent to £107 million. "The body armour business is pretty strong at the moment as you would expect given some of the conflicts that we are seeing across the globe and probably will remain pretty strong for the foreseeable future," said incoming chief executive Mark Robertshaw, who is currently finance director.
Morgan Crucible's third business, Technical Ceramics which supplies the aerospace, medical and electronics industries, saw sales up 18 per cent at £84 million.
Mr Robertshaw said the company's hip replacement joints and heart pacemakers "play well to an ageing demo-graphic. They should definitely be growing in advanced GDP wealthy countries."
Morgan Crucible has been expanding production in emerging countries, partly to cut costs but also to chase customers.
Europe and the United States now account for 55 per cent of manufacturing, down from 75 per cent three years ago.
Mr Knowlton said: "When we talk to the analysts today, we will talk about five or six bolt-on acquisitions that we made in the last half year, the majority of which are in lower cost, more rapidly growing geographies like China, for example, or India.
Mr Knowlton also said business in South America was "coming forward in leaps and bounds". There will be an interim dividend of 1 1/2p.
Arbuthnot analyst Michael Blogg said: "Price deflation is no longer a feature of Morgan's businesses."