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Johannesburg - South African logistics group Imperial Holdings reported a 14 percent rise in first-half profit on Wednesday as debt-led consumer spending lifted its auto unit and offset a weak logistic market.

Imperial, which runs car rentals, dealerships and logistics businesses, said headline earnings per share totalled 829 cents in the six months to end-December compared with 727 cents a year ago.

Headline EPS, the primary profit gauge in South Africa, strips out certain one-off items.

Imperial, the nation's biggest owner of car showrooms, is benefiting from decades-low interest rates and above-inflation wage increases that have helped underpin car sales while its logistics business at home is struggling due to a tentative economic recovery.

Revenue was 18 percent higher at 45.3 billion rand ($5.13 billion).

Imperial and other car showroom operators sold 9.2 percent more cars in 2012, a solid year despite slowing economic growth and job losses.

The company said trading conditions in the South African logistics market and in the car rental and tourism industries would remain challenging, while its international logistics business would be impacted by a slowing German economy.

“We expect subdued growth in the 2013 financial year,” it said, but added that its balance sheet was strong and the company was well positioned to take advantage of any attractive growth and acquisition opportunities as they arise.

The company declared an interim dividend of 380 cents, up 27 percent on the previous year. - Reuters