Overall plastics sales rose nearly 11 per cent to £271 million (€403m), while the higher margins in the pharmaceutical sector helped underlying operating profits rise by 35 per cent to £35 million.
"We are benefiting from the shift in our portfolio to more value added and faster growth segments such as pharmaceutical packaging," said the company in a statement, adding that margins had improved to just under 13 per cent as a result.
Rexam has been active in acquiring new pharmaceutical-focused operations - adding France's Plastic Omnium Medical in April for €32.5 million and Risdon Pharma in June 2003 for €125 million - and has moved the business away from commodity items such as thin wall plastics. All its European activities in the latter sector were divested in March.
The acquisition of POM was particularly valuable for Rexam as it strengthened its relationship with GlaxoSmithKline, the world's number two pharma company. POM is one of the main suppliers of multidose dry powder inhalers to GlaxoSmithKline, a product class that was also supplied by Rexam itself.
Overall, Rexam reported a 14 per cent increase in pretax profits in the first half to £80 million although sales slipped 1.5 per cent to £1.53 billion, mainly because of currency translation issues.
The company's biggest division sells aluminium containers and bottles for beverages, and sales of these rose 4 per cent to £1.3 billion, helped by a focus on energy drinks such as Red Bull which are selling particularly well in Europe and the US. Rexam is the largest drink can manufacturer in the world.