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Durban - South African-based explosives and speciality chemicals company AECI Limited is looking to expand its geographic footprint and market reach through organic growth and acquisitions in the year ahead.

AECI chief executive Mark Dytor was confident the group would add more acquisitions in the next months and would seek to diversify and look abroad.

“We have already gained new mining contracts in Africa and Australia for the next financial year and we are confident about 2018. We are also looking at bringing in one or two acquisitions; hopefully we will announce them in the next couple of months. We want to add some acquisitions and to the investment we have just announced in the US,” Dytor said.

The group recently demonstrated this appetite by investing $5million (R65m) in renewable chemicals business, Origin Materials, a start-up based in California last week.

The group has said this investment positioned AECI to take advantage of the global shift towards renewable products and to benefit from opportunities in the renewable and bio-based chemicals industries.

Read also:  AECI makes special payout after land sale 

AECI has five reporting segments: mining operations, water solutions, agriculture, food and explosives and chemicals, which were developed after the group’s 2014 strategy.

In the six months to end of June, the company improved on last year’s performance.

During the period the group saw conditions in the local and international mining sector improving with some commodity price increases providing the stimulus for higher mining output year-on-year. In the agricultural sector, normalised weather patterns in southern Africa’s summer rainfall regions enabled a recovery.

However, in the Western Cape the effects of the drought “remain of grave concern”, the group said.

But AECI continued to face challenges in South Africa as activity in the local manufacturing sector slowed further and the strength of the rand exchange rate against major currencies offset moderate increases in commodity chemical prices.

Despite these challenges, the group managed to report an increase of 32percent in headline earnings per share (Heps) to 386 cents a share, up from 293c, while profit from operations increased by 19 percent to R677m, up from R571m as compared with last year. Revenue declined 7percent to R8.48billion, down from R9.07bn.

The group said 34 percent of total revenue was generated outside of South Africa.

The board has declared an interim cash dividend of 138c per ordinary share, which is 2percent higher than the 135c declared a year ago.

Shares in AECI fell 1.43 percent to close at R105.94 on the JSE on Wednesday.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE