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Johannesburg - Imperial Holdings, owner of South Africa’s biggest car dealership network, said first-half profit increased 10 percent as sales and operating margin at its logistics unit rose.

Net income for the six months through December gained to 1.73 billion rand, compared with 1.58 billion rand a year ago, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today.

Sales grew 13 percent to 51.36 billion rand.

The company raised its half-year dividend by 5 percent to 4 rand a share.

Imperial said operating margin at its logistics division rose to 5.3 percent from 4.5 percent in the same period in 2012.

The margin of the automotive business, which accounted for 60 percent of sales, narrowed as the South African economy slows.

“We anticipate trading conditions in the new motor vehicle market to be tougher,” the company said.

“Reduced disposable income, interest rate increases, a significantly weaker currency and the high base created by strong volume growth over the past four years all present headwinds affecting margins and growth.”

Imperial shares fell less than 0.1 percent to 167.89 rand yesterday, extending this year’s decline to 17 percent.

This compares with a 7 percent gain for Barloworld Ltd., another South African car dealer and logistics operator. - Bloomberg News