BOC Group has delivered disappointing profits, but remains positive about the future of its core business.

The group puts the drop of nine per cent for the quarter ending 30 June down to the sale of parts of its healthcare business in South Africa, but says industrial gases, which make up to 80 per cent of its business performed well, helped by increasing demand in the US and Asia as well as higher prices.

Chief executive, Tony Isaac, said: \\$quot;The outlook for BOC's global gases business remains positive. Manufacturing recovery in South Africa and positive trends in North America and much of Asia are offsetting weaker trends in the UK and Australia.\\$quot;

And he said prospects for Process Gas Solutions remain strong, supported by projects expected to come on stream during the next two years.

Profit before tax and exceptional items fell to £118.9 million from £130.3 million a year ago. Turnover dropped six per cent to £1.093 billion.

Profits at the PGS, which supplies gases in bulk to refineries and chemicals and steel plants, rose seven per cent to £52.5 million. Profits at the Industrial and Special Products unit, which supplies smaller volumes of gases mostly delivered in cylinders, operating profits rose around five per cent to £70.3 million.

However, profits at BOC Edwards fell 41 per cent to £9 million and turnover dropped 10 per cent to £194 million.

Order intake reached £65 million in the quarter, but the closing order book at the end of June was around £49 million.

BOC says it expects Edwards fourth quarter profits to be similar to these third quarter figures. The unit has now been restructured and the resulting cost cutting measures are expected to generate gains of around £5 million next year. Around 120 jobs have been cut worldwide with around 50 of them at the BOC Edwards division in southern England.

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