FT reported that Cookson, a supplier of ceramic components to the steelmaking sector, pointed to continuing tough trading in the wake of a sharp fall in demand for its products since the end of 2008. It said that it would continue to keep a tight rein on costs as its passed its final dividend and suspended top up payments to its UK pension fund. Mr Nick Salmon CEO of Cookson said that "The outcome for 2008 reflects two very different periods of trading, with continued growth in our end markets in the first 9 months and then a rapid and significant weakening in the final quarter."
With overall trading conditions remain poor in the first quarter of the current year, Mr Salmon added that he expected only a slow improvement through the second as the destocking in our end markets comes to an end. But Cookson hopes that it may eventually benefit from spending on infrastructure projects resulting from stimulus packages announced by leading economies. It is also in the process of shedding a further 700 jobs from among its worldwide workforce. Revenues grew from GBP 1.62 billion to GBP 2.2 billion as trading profit jumped from GBP 170 million to GBP 216 million on strong trading through most of the year. But the company’s year soured as a rapid and significant softening in its principal end-markets, including an unprecedented reduction in global steel production, combined with weaker automotive and consumer electronics markets. Restructuring charges of GBP 40 million combined with amortisation and impairment charges of GBP 52 million, in part resulting from the Foseco acquisition, saw pre tax profits pegged back from GBP 151 million to GBP 90 million for the year to December 31st 2008.