Industrial materials group Cookson has continued to scale back its business by selling electronics unit SCS for $55.5 million (£32.1 million).

The sale of SCS to private equity firm Bunker Hill Capital came less than a month after it sold its Laminates business to Isola Group for £51 million.

Cookson - which employs 250 people in its precious metals division in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter - said the SCS move was part of its strategy to reduce debt through the disposal of non-core assets.

In November, the group said its precious metals division was still profitable, despite enduring a tough time.

The slowdown in consumer spending had meant a slower demand for products during the third quarter, the company said.

The deal, agreed on New Year's Eve, brings the total proceeds of disposals in 2005 up to the £100 million mark that it had hoped to reach by the end of 2006.

It follows a major restruc-turing announced by the company a year ago.

Nick Salmon, chief executive of Cookson, said: "SCS is a good quality business, as reflected in the price achieved.

"However, it does not fit strategically with our core electronics business, and the sale represents further significant progress in terms of our strategy of progressive debt reduction.

"Following the recent announcement regarding the sale of our Laminates business, this deal means we have achieved our strategic goal of raising £100 million through disposals a year ahead of schedule."

SCS is made up of a group of companies and assets with its main operations in the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

In the six months to June 30 2005, SCS posted trading profits of £2.1 million on revenues of £9 million.

In November, Cookson said pre-tax profits for the whole group were up 24 per cent in the third quarter of the year from £22 million to £27 million.

It said pre-tax profits for the first nine months of the year were 13 per cent higher at £67 million.

That better-than-expected news prompted Investec Securities analyst John Nut-tall to "nudge up" his full-year pre-tax profits forecast of £83.2 million to nearer the £91.8 million recorded by Cookson last year.

Mr Salmon said: "Our third quarter trading update in early November demonstrated that we are making solid progress."

The group is also considering making further advanced payments into its pension scheme to help cut the deficit - £214 million at the end of June 2005. Just over £100 million of that is in the UK scheme.

It is already making annual contributions of around £10 million to £12 million but Mr Salmon said that a further one-off top-up of between £5 million to £15 million may be possible.