* Net profit 20.7 mln euros vs forecast 17 mln euros
* Total revenue up 7 percent despite drop in Europe
* EBITDA up 30 pct to 162 mln euros (Adds Mexican contract)
LISBON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Portugal's largest builder Mota Engil posted a higher-than-expected 13 percent rise in first-half net profit, driven by strong revenue growth in Africa and Latin America, where it also announced a new contract.
The company said a consortium it leads had won a contract to design, build and operate a 14.5 km (9 mile) stretch of highway in Mexico City with a total projected investment of 347 million euros ($458.9 million), which further boosts an order book that has already surpassed its year-end target.
Net profit rose to 20.7 million euros, exceeding the average analysts' forecast of 17 million. Core profit (EBITDA) rose 30 percent to almost 162 million euros, exceeding expectations of 135 million.
Revenue increased 7 percent to 1.04 billion euros, in line with estimates, and the company said it expected to maintain a similar revenue growth rate this year. Overseas operations accounted for 70 percent of total revenue.
Sales in Africa - especially Angola, Malawi and Mozambique - jumped 36 percent to 433 million euros, while in Latin America revenue soared 48 percent to 189 million. Mota has added projects in Brazil and Colombia this year to its existing operations in Mexico and Peru.
In recession-hit Europe, mainly Portugal, revenue fell 17.5 percent to 444 million euros.
Mota's order book reached 3.6 billion euros at the end of June, allowing the company to exceed its year-end target of 3.5 billion. Africa and Latin America accounted for 80 percent of its order book.
Mota-Engil shares closed 4.8 percent higher at 2.73 euros before the results were announced, outperforming the broader market in Lisbon that rose 0.7 percent. ($1 = 0.7496 euros) (Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by David Holmes)