Sasol unveils record profit

Oil and chemicals group Sasol on Monday unveiled record profits for its 2005 financial year due to the sharp increase in international crude oil prices, while the company also predicted “satisfactory growth” in earnings for its 2006 year.

Sasol reported an 86% increase in diluted headline earnings per share to 1 719 cents for the year ended June 2005, from 925 cents in the previous comparative period.

The I-Net Bridge consensus of analysts was for diluted headline earnings per share of 1 694,5 cents, with forecasts ranging from 1 650 cents to 1 705 cents.

The group declared a final dividend of 310 cents, for a total dividend of 540 cents per share, up 20% from 450 cents in the previous year.

Sasol was expected to declare a total dividend of 501,5 cents, according to the I-Net Bridge consensus of analysts, with forecasts ranging from 475 cents to 518 cents.

Headline earnings per share increased to a record 1 749 cents from the previous year’s 934 cents, bettering the company’s previous record headline earnings per share of 1 597 cents achieved in 2002.

Turnover for the year soared to a record R69,239-billion from R60,151-billion in 2004.

At 1.05pm, Sasol’s share price on the JSE was quoted at R230.01, up 3,4% or R7,51 from the previous close.

Investment analysts are currently forecasting that Sasol will produce fully diluted headline earnings per share of 2 235 cents in its 2006 year, with forecasts ranging from 1 916 cents to 2 446,7 cents, and a dividend per share of 600 cents, with forecasts ranging from 500 cents to 725 cents.

With the commissioning of the Oryx gas-to-liquids project in Qatar, in which Sasol has a 49% stake, Arya Sasol Polymers in Iran and the Project Turbo in South Africa, Sasol’s production will increase, but most of the rise in production will be felt in the group’s 2007 year.

As a result of the polymer plants under construction in South Africa and Iran, Sasol’s annual polymer output is set to almost double to 1,5-million tonnes, which will put Sasol among the world’s largest polymer producers.

Sasol will continue to grow its global gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids businesses, with the group especially looking at countries such as Australia, China, the United States, India and Pakistan, which have large coal reserves, Sasol chief executive Pat Davies said.

On the safety front, Sasol experienced 17 fatalities at its operations in 2005, which Davies said was “unacceptable”.

Sasol aims to reduce its recordable cases per 200 000 hours to 0,5 by the end of its 2006 fiscal year.—I-Net Bridge