November 23, 2018 / 9:15 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 2-Cement maker PPC seeks CEO as Claassen to retire

* Claassen retiring after 30 years at PPC

* Was appointed permanent CEO in February

* Shares down 0.63 percent (Recasts lead, adds CEO comment)

By Patricia Aruo

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 23 (Reuters) - South African cement producer PPC reported an 11 percent increase in half-year profit on Friday and said it is seeking a successor to CEO Johan Claassen who wants to retire.

Claassen was managing director of the South African cement business prior taking over from Darryll Castle after his sudden resignation last July in the midst of takeover attempts by multiple companies.

PPC, which has operations in six African countries, has been a takeover target on-and-off for several years by companies including AfriSam, Nigeria’s Dangote Cement, Irish building materials firm CRH and Switzerland’s LafargeHolcim.

“I have indicated to the board that I would like to retire in the near future. I will give them enough time to choose a proper successor and ensure a smooth transition,” Claassen told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“I think it is fair to say that I inherited a company that was not that stable and I think we [the team] have done a lot of work in the last 18 months to tackle issues such as liquidity,” he said.

In the last year, the firm has restructured debt in Congo, Rwanda and South Africa as part of efforts to improve liquidity.

Headline earnings per share for the half-year ended September 30 was 21 cents, up from 19 cents a year earlier on strong growth in the rest of Africa.

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

Group revenue rose 8 percent to 5.6 billion rand ($407 million), with Zimbabwe delivering the strongest revenue growth of 31 percent to 1.07 billion rand.

Cement revenue from South Africa fell 4 percent as the market battled a tough consumer environment, a struggling construction industry and higher fuel costs.

PPC shares were down 0.63 percent at 6.30 rand at 0833 GMT.

$1 = 13.7639 rand Reporting by Patricia Aruo; editing by Rashmi Aich and Jason Neely

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