Shares in chemical company Johnson Matthey were up in morning trading on the FTSE 100 after the group reported a rise in sales excluding precious metals, of 32 per cent in the first quarter ended 30 June.

The group added that sales were also slightly higher than in the final quarter of the previous year, despite Q4 usually being its strongest period of the year.

Underlying pre-tax profit in Q1 was reported as being up 47 per cent from the same period last year and was also in line with the previous quarter.

Johnson Matthey said that sales at both its Environmental Technologies and Emission Control Technologies divisions were up 39 per cent in the quarter compared with the same period last year.

Sales of autocatalysts were reported to be strong, while heavy duty diesel catalyst sales rose 12 per cent in Q1 compared with the previous quarter.

Process Technologies sales increased 35 per cent from the first quarter of last year, but fell eight per cent from the previous quarter.

The group's Precious Metal Products division saw sales rise 34 per cent compared with Q1 in the previous year and 14 per cent from the previous quarter, thanks to high platinum prices and demand for industrial products and precious metal refining. On average platinum prices were 39 per cent higher in Q1 than in the same period last year and were four per cent higher than in the previous quarter.

Sales at the group's Fine Chemicals division rose six per cent from the previous quarter and were in line with the first quarter of the previous.

John Banham, Chairman of Johnson Matthey, said, "Johnson Matthey has made a good start to the financial year with the first quarter benefiting from a continuation of the positive trends seen in our major markets during the second half of 2009/10.

"Looking ahead, for the group as a whole the second quarter will also be significantly stronger than the same period last year. However, we currently expect that its results will be lower than those in the first quarter due to normal seasonal factors, an expected end to recent stock building by the car companies and the potential impact on consumer confidence of economic uncertainty, particularly in Europe. As stated at the time of our full year results, the outlook for the second half of the year still remains harder to predict but, if demand remains at current levels our full year results will be well ahead of last year."

By 09:41 shares in Johnson Matthey were up 2.06 per cent to 1,633.00 pence per share.