Smurfit profits rise to €186m


Jefferson Smurfit Group profits before tax and exceptional items increased to €186 million (£146 million) for the six months to end June.

This compared with profits of €33 million for the previous corresponding period and was at the upper end of analysts' forecasts, which ranged from €170 million to €190 million.

When exceptional items are included, the pre-tax outcome was €175 million (£138 million), up from €70 million in the previous corresponding period.

Earnings per share rose to nine cents (7p)from one cent before exceptionals and to 8.3 cents (6 1/2p) from 3.3 cents after exceptional items.

Shareholders will get an interim dividend of 2.5 cents per share, up from 2.35 cents. Profits before interest, exceptional items and tax were 80 per cent higher at €319 million (£251 million) compared with €177 million in the first half of 1999.

Group turnover was 31 per cent higher at €2.2 billion (£1.73 billion) while costs rose by 30 per cent to €1.6 billion.

The group operating profit rose to €134 million (£106 million) from €98 million while associates chipped in a net €171 million, up from €72 million, to bring the total operating profit for the period to €305 million from €170 million.

Interest costs fell to €133 million from €144 million - total borrowings at the end of June were €1.6 billion, up from €1.59 billion.

A geographical breakdown shows that Europe accounted for 67 per cent of sales and 32 per cent of profits.

Sales increased to €1.48 billion from €1.29 billion while operating profits were up to €103 million from €77 million.

Operating margins improved to 6.96 per cent from 5.95 per cent.

Latin America accounted for 17 per cent of sales and 14 per cent of profits.

Sales were up 11.5 per cent at €374 million while operating profits were 43 per cent ahead at €43 million.

North America, excluding the 30 per cent associate Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, produced 16 per cent of group sales with turnover up to €351 million from €111 million.

But North America accounted for 54 per cent of group profits when the contribution from SSCC is included with operating profits of €173 million, up from €69 million.