/ 1 March 2010

Bidvest lifts first-half profit, Asia-Pacific unit robust

South African industrial group Bidvest posted a 9% rise in first-half profit, helped by cost cuts and a strong performance from its Asia-Pacific unit.

Bidvest, whose activities cover auto retailing, freight services and food distribution, said on Monday headline earnings per share rose to 495 cents in the six months to end-December, in line with its forecast range of an 8% to 10% rise.

The company said the results were enhanced by a R2-billion reduction in working capital and lower finance charges due to falling interest rates.

Bidvest said trading conditions in Southern Africa — excluding Namibia — were challenging, but its European unit “held up well” while its Asian business returned strong results.

Revenue fell 6,5% to R56,1-billion, hit by lower import demand, unfavourable swings in the rand currency and deflation.

Bidvest has suffered in recent times as slower economic growth in Europe, Asia and South Africa hit demand for products and services.

The company said it was confident of an improved performance in the future as the global economic recovery gains traction.

“Working capital management continues to receive the necessary attention, however, some absorption will be evident as trading volumes tick up,” it said. — Reuters