Oxford Instruments PLC hikes dividend to pre-pandemic levels as semiconductor and quantum materials markets thrive
With cash “impressive” levels, analysts at Peel Hunt reckon “there is a good chance now that M&A will be back on the agenda”
After deciding to withhold its payout a year ago due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the FTSE 250-listed group also proposed a 12.9p final dividend, making for a total of 17.0 pence for the year to end-March, up from 14.4p two years ago.
The maker of products, systems and tools for scientific research and industry generated profit before tax of £52.2mln, up 35% in part thanks to a foreign exchange gain of £7.3mln and good growth in North America and Asia that was only partly offset by a decline in Europe.
This came as revenue inched up 0.3% to £318.5mln, or 1.7% higher on a constant-currency basis.
Orders grew 5.3% to £353.7mln, with momentum said to reflect “underlying strength and breadth” of end markets, while cash at the end of the year was £98mln.
Chief executive Ian Barkshire said the group and staff had “demonstrated outstanding agility to adapt to new ways of working”.
He added: “Our robust performance, strong order book and breadth of attractive end markets demonstrate the resilience of our business model, positioning us well for good progress in the year despite anticipated currency headwinds and the ongoing uncertainties as global economies look to recover from COVID.”
The shares fell 1% to 2,125p in early trading on Tuesday.
“Better customer intimacy and operational improvements have resulted in further margin gains, and we see more to come,” said analysts at broker Peel Hunt, adding that they anticipate upgrading pretax profit forecasts for the new year 3%.
With cash at an “impressive” £98m, the analysts said “we believe there is a good chance now that M&A will be back on the agenda”.
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