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Johnson Matthey to buy back shares as profit jumps

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By Yadarisa Shabong

(Reuters) -Johnson Matthey's first-half profit almost doubled to surpass pre-pandemic levels, the British chemicals maker said on Wednesday, as it unveiled a share buyback plan and agreed to sell its glass technologies business.

The company, which also refines platinum group metals (PGM) used by carmakers, said this month it would sell its battery materials business and appoint a new chief executive. It is also in talks about a potential sale of its health business.

Johnson Matthey reported operating profit of 293 million pounds ($392 million) in the six months to Sept. 30, ahead of an analyst consensus compiled by the company of 288.3 million and up from 151 million last year. It said the increase was 102% at constant rates.

Some analysts have said the sale of the battery business might lead to a break-up of the company, especially once Bayer's Liam Condon takes over as chief executive next year.

Johnson Matthey Chief Financial Officer Stephen Oxley and the board will support Condon's review of the business once he takes the reins in March, Oxley said in an interview.

"We're open to any opportunity or possibility ... we'll be looking at all options for the company," he said.

Johnson Matthey will sell its glass technologies business, which supplies glass enamels to carmakers, for 178 million pounds ($238 million). The sale is expected to create a profit of over 100 million pounds which will be returned to shareholders through a buyback programme worth 200 million.

Johnson Matthey maintained its outlook for the year. It warned this month that annual results would be towards the lower end of market expectations due to supply chain shortages in the auto industry and labour shortages at its health business.

($1 = 0.7480 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and David Clarke)

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