090508 Cement companies in South Africa are to increase their prices on cement.picture Simphiwe Mbokazi 8

Johannesburg - PPC, South Africa’s largest cement maker, said first-half profit advanced 52 percent as the company consolidated foreign units and improvements in exports counteracted declining domestic sales.

Net income for the six months ended March advanced to 494 million rand from 325 million rand a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today.

Operating earnings before a number of one-time items rose 3 percent to 884 million rand, while sales climbed 9 percent to 4.16 billion rand.

“Improvements in export sales and the consolidation of sales from our Rwanda operation and newly acquired Safika Cement business were partly offset by declining sales volumes in South Africa and Botswana,” chief executive Ketso Gordhan said in the statement.

PPC said it remains “optimistic” that cement sales volume will improve.

PPC is expanding in Africa, including countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria and Ethiopia, to boost foreign sales to 40 percent by 2017, from 26 percent in the first half, according to the statement.

In South Africa, PPC’s main market, the company is facing competition from Dangote Cement, while demand remains sluggish due to weak economic growth.

The stock has advanced 4.9 percent this year compared with a 1.2 percent decline in the 8-member FTSE/JSE Africa Construction & Building Materials Index. - Bloomberg News