May 21, 2018 / 8:51 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's Barloworld reports solid first-half earnings as mining picks up

(Adds details, CEO comment)

JOHANNESBURG, May 21 (Reuters) - South Africa's Barloworld Ltd, a dealer for Caterpillar Inc and other industrial brands, reported a 14 percent rise in first-half earnings on Monday as a pick-up in mining activity spurred sales of heavy equipment.

The biggest revenue increase came from its equipment businesses in Southern Africa, its biggest market, led by mining machine sales in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia, the company said. Its equipment business in Russia also continued to benefit from greenfield and brownfield mining projects.

"The improving global economy and current favourable commodity prices have resulted in improved mining output in our region," Chief Executive Dominic Sewela said in a statement.

"This has increased demand from both mining companies and contract miners for replacement machines and to a lesser extent machines for expansion projects," he continued.

The group's order book for its Equipment Southern Africa business stood at 2.9 billion rand ($227 million) at the end of March, in line with its level in September 2017, but up from 1.9 billion a year earlier.

Barloworld's car rental and sales business, however, saw first-half revenue fall 5.8 percent from a year as a result of BMW and General Motors SA dealership closures and disposals during 2017.

Headline earnings per share (HEPS) from continuing operations rose to 457 cents in the six months to March 31, from 400 cents a year earlier, the equipment, car rental and logistics provider said in a statement.

HEPS strips out certain once-off items and is the main profit measure used in South Africa.

Operating profit from continuing operations increased 6 percent to 2 billion rand.

Barloworld carried out a strategic review of its businesses last year to address underperforming businesses and optimise returns from its existing portfolio. Last month it announced it would sell its underperforming Iberian equipment business to privately owned Italian group Tesa S.p.A. ($1 = 12.7895 rand) (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Susan Fenton)

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