March 20, 2013 / 2:58 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Higher sales push up profits at Kenya's ARM Cement

* Predicts strong revenue and profit growth in 2013

* Raises dividend per share by a quarter to 0.50 shillings (Adds details)

NAIROBI, March 20 (Reuters) - ARM Cement on Wednesday reported a 31 percent increase in pretax profit to 1.76 billion shillings ($20.55 million) for last year on the back of a surge in cement sales.

Kenya’s second largest cement firm also said it expected strong growth in sales and profit this year, based on the performance of the first two months of this year compared with last year.

“Following the peaceful elections in Kenya and continued robust growth in the east African economies, demand for cement is expected to continue growing,” ARM Cement said.

Kenya, which has the biggest economy in the region, picked Uhuru Kenyatta as the next president in a March 4 vote that was largely peaceful. Defeated rival Raila Odinga said he would challenge the results in court.

Cement companies are a focus for investors as a way to invest in the region’s strong economic growth, highlighted by the construction of highways and new office buildings in major cities.

ARM Cement, which changed its name from Athi River Mining during the period under review, said sales of cement grew 64 percent after its market share increased in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

That helped to increase group turnover by 39 percent to 11.4 billion shillings. ARM Cement’s new plant in Tanzania contributed three months worth of sales after it was commissioned in October, the company said.

It increased its dividend per share by a quarter to 0.50 shillings.

ARM released the results after markets had closed. Its shares were up 1.5 percent at 68.00 shillings on Wednesday. ($1 = 85.6500 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by George Obulutsa and Jane Merriman)

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