* 2011 underlying profit rise 31 pct
* Acquires two firms for $60 million
* Says search continues for new CEO
* Shares up 3 pct (Adds details, share movement)
March 2 (Reuters) - Britain’s Laird plc said it expected acquisitions and strong demand for its electronic components used in tablets and smartphones to bolster growth in 2012.
The company -- a major supplier for Apple’s iPhones and iPads -- posted a 31 percent jump in full-year underlying profit and said it acquired two firms for a total of $60 million.
“We expect the underlying demand for our products to continue to grow as electronic devices continue to evolve,” Laird said in a statement.
Laird, which was founded as a shipbuilding company in 1824, makes electromagnetic shielding and heat control devices that go into tablets, phones, TVs and gaming consoles.
“Consumer demand for such devices, notably smartphones and tablets, is not unaffected by subdued economic conditions, but the emergence of China and India as substantial endmarkets is expected to underpin ongoing growth in the future,” J.P. Morgan Cazenove analysts wrote in a note.
London-based Laird posted an underlying profit of 52.7 million pounds ($84.10 million) for 2011, up from 40.2 million pounds, a year ago.
Revenue from continuing operations rose 19 percent to 491.3 million pounds.
Demand trends in the first two months of 2012 have not been similar to the year-ago period due to an early Chinese New Year. But the company was confident of growth this year, Executive Chairman Nigel Keen said on a call with reporters.
“What happened in February last year happened in January this year. And that will ripple through,” Keen said. “But it’s looking pretty firm.”
CEO Keen said the company expected to spend 50-100 million pounds a year on acquisitions
The acquisitions of MMG and Summit Technologies announced on Friday were expected to add $20 million to $25 million in revenue in 2012.
It expected these newly added businesses to grow at more than 10 percent, and add to 2012 earnings.
Laird said it continued to look for a chief executive to replace Peter Hill, who stepped down in November due to ill health. Keen took over the controls of the company.
The company, which last year rejected a takeover offer from Cooper Industries, raised its final dividend by 26 percent to 5.3 pence a share.
Laird’s shares, which have risen 35 percent in the last three months, were trading up 3 percent at 177.3 pence at 0925 GMT on Friday on the London Stock Exchange. ($1 = 0.6266 British pounds) (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)