We are pleased to report record results for the first half of 2010 with profits and trading margins ahead in all segments. We have seen an improvement in trading conditions as our markets recover from the recession in 2009.
Sales in the half year were £277.0 million, up 10% from the £251.6 million achieved in 2009, led by Watson-Marlow Pumps and in the steam business by the Americas and Asia Pacific. Sales were ahead 8% at constant currency, of which acquisitions contributed 2%.
Adjusted operating profit increased by 41% from £37.8 million to £53.5 million (up 38% at constant currency) and the adjusted operating profit margin showed a strong improvement from 15.0% to 19.3% in the first half. We benefited from operational gearing on the higher sales, last year's cost reduction measures, lower material costs, favourable product mix and exchange movements.
Net finance expense reduced from £1.0 million to £0.4 million due to an improvement this year in the net pension schemes financial expense caused by the increase in scheme asset values in 2009. The Group's share of the after tax profits of Associates increased by 30% to £1.8 million.
Adjusted profit before tax increased by 44% from £38.2 million to £54.9 million. In addition, the Group recognised an exceptional non-cash revaluation gain of £8.2 million on the 49% investment in our former Mexican Associate company, following our acquisition on 25th May 2010 of the remaining 51% of the company. The total profit before tax, including this uplift and after deducting the amortisation of acquisition-related intangible assets, was £61.3 million in the first half of 2010 compared with £30.2 million in the comparable period, which was after deducting headcount reduction costs of £7.0m in the first half of 2009.
Our overall tax rate, based on the adjusted profit before tax excluding Associates, was unchanged at 31.4%. Adjusted basic earnings per share increased by 43% to 49.8p (2009: 34.9p)