Sasol operations in Secunda. Photo supplied.

South African petrochemicals group Sasol posted a 25 percent rise in full-year earnings on Monday, boosted by higher crude oil prices and a weaker rand, and said it expected better operational performance in the current year.

Sasol, the world's top maker of motor fuel from coal, said headline earnings per share rose 25 percent to 42.28 rand, in line with Sasol's own guidance of a jump of between 20-30 percent given in August. Headline EPS is the main profit gauge in South Africa and excludes certain one-time items.

Its earnings were helped by a 17 percent rise in the average crude oil price, higher prices for its products as well as an 11 percent weaker rand/dollar exchange rate.

A weaker rand is positive for South African exporters as it lifts profits when overseas earnings are brought home.

Full-year turnover rose to 169.4 billion rand ($20.74 billion) from 142.4 billion rand a year ago.

Output of synthetic fuels was 7.2 million tonnes and the company said it expected production at that unit to improve to between 7.2 and 7.4 million tonnes in the current year.

Sasol said it expects crude oil and product prices to remain volatile in the near term, while the rand will remain one of the biggest external factors impacting its profitability.

“We remain on track to deliver on our expectations for improved operational performance,” it added.

The company declared a final gross cash dividend of 11.80 rand per ordinary share, up from 9.9 rand the previous year.

The stock is down nearly 3 percent so far this year, compared with a 10.8 percent rise in the JSE Top-40 blue-chip index. - Reuters