UPDATE 1-Johnson Matthey's half-year profit slumps on pandemic hit

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Nov 19 (Reuters) - Chemicals maker Johnson Matthey on Thursday reported a near 90% slump in half-year profit and also refrained from providing an outlook for 2021, as pandemic restrictions continued to dent demand for its pollution filters.

The company named the group’s financial controller Karen Hayzen-Smith as its interim chief financial officer and said sales at its Clean Air division fell nearly 30% on-year.

Johnson Matthey said demand at its Clean Air unit, its biggest contributor to sales, was materially lower than last year, especially in Europe and the Americas.

“In Clean Air, following the temporary disruption earlier in the year, we are currently seeing a strong recovery in demand across all regions, especially in China,” Chief Executive Officer Robert MacLeod said.

Demand in autos and other key markets has improved since the start of the pandemic, MacLeod said, but warned that the path to recovery remained uncertain.

The company, one of Europe’s leading producers of autocatalysts, said profit before tax for the six months ended Sept. 30 slumped to 26 million pounds ($34.44 million) from 225 million pounds last year.

($1 = 0.7550 pounds)

Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips