File picture:

Johannesburg - South Africa's biggest construction firm, Aveng Ltd, reported a drop in half-year profit on Tuesday, hit by delays in public building projects and labour unrest.

Like other building firms in Africa's top economy, Aveng has struggled to increase profit since the end of the building boom for the 2010 soccer World Cup held there.

The company said in the six months to the end of December, headline earnings per share, South Africa's primary profit gauge which exclude certain one-off items, fell 21 percent to 82.1 cents.

During the period under review, the sector was hit by a three-week strike over wages by South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers and often tense labour relations are seen as a constraint on productivity in general.

“The direct cost of labour disruptions on the group's net operating earnings amounted to 140 million rand compared with 115 million rand in the comparative period,” the company said.

The general operating environment remained challenging, Aveng added.

“There has been no material improvement in infrastructure spending in South Africa and Australia and this was aggravated by the adverse impact of labour disruptions in South Africa,” the company said.

But it said its two-year order book remained healthy at 36.7 billion rand as of December 31, 2013. - Reuters