UPDATE 1-Alent forecasts improved consumer confidence, stock gains

Tue Mar 4, 2014 7:56am EST

(Adds background, analyst and CFO quotes, share movement)

By Tasim Zahid

March 4 (Reuters) - Speciality chemical maker Alent Plc forecast an improvement in overall consumer confidence and an expected pick-up in sales in the second half of 2014, sending its shares up as much as 6 percent.

Shares of the company, which reported a marginal fall in full-year profit, touched a high of 325 pence, making them one of the biggest percentage gainers on the FTSE-250 index.

Alent, whose copper damascene product is used in semiconductors, has customers in almost all the major markets including the United States and China.

The company, which counts Microsoft-supplier Pegatron as a customer, said seasonal improvement would boost consumer confidence but warned that a stronger pound could hurt results.

Alent, spun off from Cookson Group in a late 2012 listing, said adjusted pretax profit fell to 88 million pounds ($148.8 million) in the year ended Dec. 31 from 89 million pounds a year earlier.

Net sales value rose marginally to 420.1 million pounds from 416.7 million pounds.

Numis Securities analysts said in a note that Alent's results were ahead of their expectations and demand from automotive end markets looked promising.

"Despite a pause in growth, the stock is beginning to look inexpensive on a relative basis, given strong cash generation and a growing dividend," analyst Nick James said in the note.

Alent said it was already looking at "modest" acquisitions as it begins to consolidate.

"In our demerged form from Cookson we are finally in a place to consider acquisitions and we are working very hard on it," Group Finance Director David Egan told Reuters.

Cookson group was split into Alent and industrial ceramic mould manufacturer Vesuvius after a push by activist investor Cevian Capital. Cevian retains a major stake in both companies.

Shares in the Woking, Surrey-based company were trading at 318.72 pence at 1244 GMT on the London Stock Exchange. ($1 = 0.5982 British pounds) (Reporting by Tasim Zahid in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Sriraj Kalluvila)