November 19, 2018 / 6:08 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's Astral Foods FY profit soars 88 pct

(Adds details on poultry division, comments on Avian influenza, dividend, company’s quote)

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 19 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Astral Foods Ltd said on Monday full-year profit surged 88 percent, boosted by upbeat volumes and higher selling prices in its poultry business.

Astral, which also produces animal feed, reported diluted headline earnings per share (HEPS) of 3,687 cents for the full year ended Sept. 30, compared with 1,962 cents a year ago.

This was in line with an increase of between 3,608 cents per share and 3,798 cents per share that the firm flagged to the market.

HEPS strips out certain one-off items and is the main profit measure in South Africa.

The company’s group revenue rose 4.5 percent to 13 billion rand ($926 million), while revenue at its poultry division rose 6.9 percent to 10.6 billion rand, as positive trading conditions in the first half of the year boosted sales.

Operating profit rose 78.7 percent to a record 1.94 million rand compared with 1.08 million rand a year ago.

The poultry producer, which detected the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu in some of its farms in 2017, said in a statement: “However, with various contingency plans Astral was able continue producing just over 5 million broilers per week, still in line with the requirements of the business.”

The firm said it did not suffer any losses due to the Avian Influenza or Listeriosis which broke out in South Africa in January last year and had since infected almost 1,000 people, 180 of whom have died, the world’s worst recorded listeria outbreak.

“Astral was not directly affected by the Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. During this period the company strengthened its food safety management systems, ensuring that its hygiene and quality management protocols manage the risk of food-borne pathogens within Astral’s processing plants.”

On the back of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s mission to revive the South African economy and secure investment commitments, Astral has committed 1.1 billion rand to expansion projects over the next three years.

Astral also declared a dividend 20.50 rand per share, a 94.3 percent increase from 10.55 rand per share a year ago.

$1 = 14.0462 rand Reporting by Nomvelo Chalumbira; Editing by Sunil Nair

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