UK company sells gold, silver refineries after 162 years

Johnson Matthey PLC announced Monday it has agreed to sell its gold and silver refining business to Asahi Holdings for $184 million in cash as it shifts towards focusing on technology and chemistry.

In a statement, Johnson Matthey said it expects the deal with Asahi, refiner and recycler of precious and rare metals from waste materials, to be finalized in March.

Johnson Matthey, traces its roots back to 1817 as a gold assayer, and became official assayers and refiners to the Bank of England in 1852.

Johnson Matthey's gold and silver refining business operates from refineries in Salt Lake City, US and Brampton, Canada, and casting services from its St Catharines facility in Canada.

In total, the business employs approximately 340 people. It made sales of $69 million in the financial year to end-March and $30 million in the six months to end September.

"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," Chief Executive Robert MacLeod said in a statement.

Johnson Matthey which focuses on platinum group metals catalysts manufacture for the auto and other industries, was recently judged the UK's most admired company according. The Management Today reward now in its 24th year is based on peer ranking.

According to the company's closely watched market forecast platinum and palladium both will post annual supply deficits of more than 1 million ounces this year.

That's not just because of the strikes in South Africa and the depletion of Russian stockpiles, but also improving underlying auto-catalyst demand.