DORSET’S defence giant Cobham intends to start paying shareholders a dividend again after revealing a rise in orders.

The Wimborne-headquartered company said improvements were “starting to come through” after several difficult years.

Its annual results for 2018 showed operating profit was up from £106.9million to £111.9m, but underlying operating profit fell from £213.1m to £196.1m. Revenue fell from £2.09bn to £1.86bn.

Order intake rose from £1.91billion to £1.94bn, which Cobham said was an “encouraging” 13 per cent rise at constant currency and excluding divestments.

Cobham chief executive David Lockwood said: “We can see the benefits of our improvement actions starting to come through across most of the business, particularly so in Mission Systems. However, Advanced Electronic Solutions underperformed. We have strengthened its management, increased the focus on execution and formulated an overhead cost reduction plan.

“We have also set out a new capital allocation policy, which establishes a prudent approach to gearing and prioritises organic investment. We anticipate resuming dividend payments with our next interim results.

“Overall the board’s expectations for progress in 2019 remain unchanged with a range of potential outcomes. We continue to believe that there are considerable opportunities to improve the performance of the group over the medium term and our continuing focus on customers, culture, operational improvement, business simplification and cash will allow us to realise this potential.”

Cobham, which welcomed defence secretary Gavin Williamson to Wimborne last year, anticipates its dividend will be 1p in its first full year.

The company pointed to a strong performance from its mission systems division. Advanced electronic solutions under-performed and the company was now planning a cost reduction, with anticipated savings in 2019 of 20m US dollars.

It said recently it would take a further £160m hit after settling a dispute with Boeing over the aerospace giant’s US tanker programme. Boeing said it was no longer withholding payment of Cobham invoices.

Cobham also has a site at Bournemouth Airport and is the UK’s third biggest defence firm after BAE and Rolls-Royce.