Sydney - More digging rather than higher prices for its iron ore helped Fortescue Metals Group Ltd to a first-half net profit up 260 per cent over the corresponding period last year to 1.7 billion US dollars, the company said Wednesday.

Revenue at Australia's third-biggest iron ore producer in the six months to December 31 was up 77 per cent to 5.8 billion dollars.

“The ongoing strong demand for our products has allowed us to accelerate debt repayment, de-risk the balance sheet and increase returns to our shareholders,” Fortescue chief Nev Power said in a statement.

Shipments were up by a half and the cost of production was down by a third.

The results were in line with analysts' forecasts and so the share price was steady. - Sapa-dpa