Johnson Matthey is selling its gold and silver refineries for £118m as part of a plan to focus on providing specialist chemicals.
The sale to the Japanese industrial conglomerate Asahi Holdings includes refineries in Salt Lake City, USA and Brampton in Canada. The plants melt down recycled jewellery, industrial scrap, mining ore and metal from financial institutions into gold and silver bullion.
The refining business made sales of £44m in the year to the end of March, with returns of around 25pc, the firm said. It employs around 340 people.
Johnson Matthey said last month that half-year sales in its gold and silver refining business were down 23pc, while its platinum refining business was benefiting from a higher asking price for the commodity.
The company did not say whether the plunging prices of gold and silver, with the metals down about 12pc and 18pc respectively since peaking in March, have influenced its decision to sell.
“The divestment of the gold and silver refining business is in line with our long term strategy to focus on areas where we can use our expertise in chemistry and its applications to deliver high technology solutions or that provide a strategic service to the wider Johnson Matthey group,” said chief executive Robert MacLeod, who took over from Neil Carson in June.
The cash sale is expected to complete by the end of March. Johnson Matthey is also awaiting the completion of its £46m purchase of Clariant AG’s energy storage business.
By Marion Dakers