(Adds background, analyst and CFO quotes, share movement)
By Tasim Zahid
March 4 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
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
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
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)