The update accompanied results for the year to end March 2021 which saw the chemicals company’s pretax profit fall 22% to £238mln. The second half of the year accounted for about 89% of the full-year figure based on previously announced results for the first half.
“Following a challenging first half, we recovered strongly in the second half helped by a strong recovery in our end markets and higher precious metal prices,” said chief executive Robert MacLeod.
“Whilst our markets may remain uncertain as the pandemic continues to affect parts of the world differently we nonetheless expect low to mid teens growth in underlying operating performance in the coming year, before the anticipated benefit of currently strong precious metal prices,” he said.
Revenue for the year grew 8% to £15.7bn driven by higher average precious metal prices.
Underlying sales at constant exchange rates declined 5% year-on-year mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 on the FTSE100 company’s Clean Air sector, although it noted that this business experienced a strong recovery through the second half.
It plans to pay a final dividend of 50.0p, taking the total payout to 70.0p representing a 26% increase on the prior year.
The board anticipates restoring future dividend payments to levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when circumstances permit, it said.
While the current year has started well, the company said that end market demand remains uncertain and subject to COVID-19 developments around the world, with the potential for supply chain disruption for some of its automotive customers.