A NORTH-EAST chemical firm says an industry overhaul on vehicle emissions has helped bolster financial results.

Johnson Matthey has revealed sales, excluding precious metals, increased to £708m, with underlying pre-tax profits rising to £96m for the third quarter to December 31.

Bosses at the Queen's-awarding winning company said its results were buoyed by changes to reduce emissions on European heavy-duty vehicles.

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The company, which employs hundreds of North-East workers, says its emission control division, which makes catalysts for trucks, buses and construction equipment, benefited from the changes, with sales increasing 15 per cent to £397m.

It added its process technology business, including Stockton-based Davy Process Technology, saw sales rise 11 per cent to £133m, with potential new work in China.

Davy provides licences to operate technologies in the manufacturing of oil and gas, petrochemicals and fine chemicals.

Johnson Matthey also runs Tracerco, in Billingham, near Stockton, which has developed a system to test for illegal fuels, and nearby precious metal producer, Chilton.

In a report, bosses including Neil Carson, Johnson Matthey chief executive, said: “Trading was good, driven primarily by another strong performance from emission control technologies.

“That division saw operating profits grow substantially and the business benefited from good growth in Asia and ongoing mix benefits seen in the first-half in Europe.

“Our heavy-duty diesel catalyst sales were 26 per cent higher at £136m, supported by strong growth in Europe, which benefited from the ramp up of demand for products to meet the new legislation.

“Process technologies also saw operating profits well ahead, with Davy Technologies continuing to work on providing engineering designs on previously secured projects.

“The potential for new licences, particularly in China, remains positive.”

The company's precious metal product division saw sales fall slightly to £95m, though fine chemical sales increased by seven per cent to £76m.

The report added: “Sales and returns in our refining business were down as a result of precious weak metal prices.

“Our long-standing Anglo Platinum contracts also expired on December 31, which will reduce sales by about £10m per quarter.

“The outlook for the group for the remainder of the year has slightly improved and we expect performance in the second-half to be slightly ahead.”

Mr Carson will stand down from his role in June, and will be replaced by Robert MacLeod.

He said: “This is a wonderful company and the management team and I have continued the transformation of it into a world leading speciality chemicals firm.

“The business is in excellent shape and I'm very pleased to be handing it over to a team led by Robert.”