British BOC, which has agreed to be taken over by Linde, has announced its first half-year results.

The company\\$quot;s gases business continued to grow strongly throughout the first half year with better volumes overall and good recovery of higher energy costs in selling prices. This growth, coupled with better profitability in BOC Edwards, led to an 8 per cent increase in earnings for the half year.

Group revenue rose to £1.98bn from £1.94bn last year, while total revenue jumped six per cent to 2.4bn.

Pre-tax profit came in lower at £241m versus £354m as last years figures were inflated by the disposal of certain businesses.

Chief executive, Tony Isaac said: "Our gases business continued to grow strongly throughout the first half year with better volumes overall and good recovery of higher energy costs in selling prices. This growth, coupled with better profitability in BOC Edwards, led to an eight per cent increase in earnings for the half year.

"Meanwhile our investment programme is gathering pace with an important hydrogen plant commissioned in the US during March and six other major plants due to be commissioned before the year end. Adjusted return on capital was maintained at 15.9 per cent in the second quarter, even after investing in these construction projects. A number of new contracts have also been won recently including the formation of a joint venture to supply a Sinopec petrochemical business near Shanghai."

Highlights of the results are:
\\$quot;¢ The positive trend of the first quarter continued in the second quarter.
\\$quot;¢ Within the gases businesses, Process Gas Solutions performed particularly strongly. Total revenue for the half year was up 16 per cent on a constant currency basis. Some of this came from higher prices to recover energy costs but underlying growth was 9 per cent. Total adjusted operating profit was up 11 per cent.
\\$quot;¢ Industrial and Special Products performed particularly well in North America, Africa and the south Pacific but overall growth was held back by challenging conditions in the UK.
\\$quot;¢ BOC Edwards\\$quot; total revenue picked up strongly in the second quarter, with better sales of semiconductor equipment. For the half year, adjusted operating profit improved significantly.
\\$quot;¢ Even with the increased capital devoted to projects under construction, adjusted return on capital was 15.9 per cent in the second quarter - the same as in the first quarter.