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Afrox Pays Shareholders R2.1 Billion And Expects Sound Growth From New

Release Date: 29/04/2005 15:00:23      Code(s): AFX
Afrox pays shareholders R2.1 billion and expects sound growth from new          
businesses                                                                      
PRESS RELEASE - AFRICAN OXYGEN LIMITED                                          
29 APRIL 2005                                                                   
AFROX PAYS SHAREHOLDERS R2,1 BILLION                                            
AND EXPECTS SOUND GROWTH FROM NEW BUSINESSES                                    
African Oxygen Limited (Afrox) is paying shareholders R2,1 billion for the sale 
of its healthcare subsidiary and expects sound future growth from new           
initiatives such as a new safety business, Gas & Gear retail outlets, and new   
export markets for both welding electrodes and gas equipment and accessories.   
The board of directors has decided to distribute the net proceeds from the      
disposal of the company"s 68 percent shareholding in Afrox Healthcare Limited in
the form of a share buy back and a special dividend.  A special cash dividend   
amounting to 415,0 cents per ordinary share has been declared, and the          
distribution of the remainder of the net proceeds, through a share buy back,    
amounts to 193,0 cents.  The total distribution will therefore be 608 cents per 
Afrox share.                                                                    
In addition, the board of directors has declared an interim cash dividend from  
the industrial operations of 40 cents per share (2004: 33 cents per share), an  
increase of 21 percent on the comparable results this time last year.           
For the six months ended 31 March 2005, the consolidated results of both Afrox  
industrial and healthcare, have shown a 9 percent increase in revenue to R4,1   
billion (2004: R3,7 billion) with operating profit up 7 percent at R641,2       
million (2004: R598,3 million) and headline earnings per share 12 percent higher
than the comparable period last year.                                           
On a comparative basis for the six months under review, the Afrox industrial    
business stripped of healthcare results, showed a pleasing 12 percent increase  
in revenue at R1,6 billion (2004: R1,4 billion) with net profit 7 percent higher
at R222,8 million (2004: R207,4 million).                                       
Chief executive of Afrox, Rick Hogben said, "Our results were in line with      
expectations.  The first quarter in particular, was characterised by the rapid  
escalation in costs of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and steel.  High steel     
prices impact on the manufacturing of our gas equipment and welding electrodes. 
After an initial lag in the recovery of these costs, by the end of the second   
quarter they had been fully recovered with an increase in selling prices.  There
was a marked improvement with a pleasing growth in profits in the second        
quarter."                                                                       
"Our Process Gas Solutions (PGS) business was affected by reduced plant         
efficiencies, which have now been rectified through planned plant maintenance." 
The sale of Afrox Healthcare was granted final approval by the Competition      
Tribunal and became effective on 22 March 2005.  Bidco, a BEE consortium, led by
Brimstone Investment Corporation Limited and Mvelaphanda Strategic Investments  
(Pty) Limited, became the registered holder of all of the issued shares of Afrox
Healthcare Limited.  On 23 March 2005, Afrox Healthcare Limited"s listing on the
JSE Securities Exchange was terminated and all its shareholders have been paid  
in full.                                                                        
Hogben said that without the healthcare subsidiary, the company had a broad base
and could be considered as more than an industrial business.  "Our strategy is  
to sustain our core business while utilising our strong branding and            
distribution network to grow into new markets and new geographies."             
He cited entry into the global export market with the company"s Vitemax general-
purpose electrodes as an example.  Repeat orders have been obtained from sales  
of electrodes, marketed as BOC SmoothArc, to parent company BOC"s operations in 
Australia and New Zealand.                                                      
"Competing internationally, we won the contract to supply BOC in the United     
Kingdom with our redesigned range of gas equipment and accessories," said       
Hogben.  "This follows successful exports of our world benchmark Afrox designed 
and manufactured gas and welding equipment to Australia, New Zealand and SE     
Asia."                                                                          
Referring to the new Afrox Gas & Gear retail centres that have opened recently  
to cater for Afrox"s smaller collect customers, Hogben said, "Afrox Gas & Gear  
is a new concept in industrial retailing.  We are converting, re-locating or    
upgrading our existing chain of retail outlets countrywide and plan to have 16  
operational by the year-end and to introduce 24 more centres within the next two
years."                                                                         
"In April, we acquired Twinco, a leading safety products company that will      
position us to compete successfully in the safety products market.  In addition,
sales of the AfroxPac 35 self-contained self-rescuer, launched in 2003, are on  
track to achieve stringent stretch targets by year-end.  Growth in the safety   
business has led to the consolidation of our safety products under a single     
business unit called Afrox Safety, which already has an annualised turnover in  
excess of R180 million," said Hogben.                                           
Afrox is also investing R100 million, in the expansion and re-engineering of its
gases operations centre in Germiston.  This will enlarge what is already the    
biggest gas production, cylinder filling and distribution centre in the southern
hemisphere.  Here Afrox manufactures, produces and distributes its entire range 
of industrial, medical and scientific gases.  The re-engineering will           
incorporate an improved logistics layout, a world-class nitrous oxide facility, 
a test station and medical gases filling facility.                              
Process Gas Solutions grew market share but, due to shutdowns for maintenance,  
sales were affected. Plant efficiencies have now been rectified through the     
planned maintenance, and PGS is again on target to make up any shortfall in the 
second half.                                                                    
Afrox is known as a strong performer through all economic cycles. Looking to the
future, Hogben said, "The challenges encountered in the first quarter were      
foreseen and we have actions to offset these for the second half of the year.   
As a result we expect increased revenues and profits from our new product and   
service offerings.  We look forward to the next six months with confidence and  
expect earnings growth to be higher for the full year."                         
Ends                                                                            
Issued by African Oxygen Limited                                                
Contact Chris Fieldgate 011 490 0430 or                                         
Ros Beart 011 490 0712                                                          
Date: 29/04/2005 03:00:27 PM Supplied by www.sharenet.co.za                     
Produced by the JSE SENS Department                                             
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                



                                        
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