JOHANNESBURG - Global integrated chemicals and energy company Sasol said on Monday headline earnings per share rose 17 percent to R17.67 in the six months ended 31 December 2017, above market guidance.

The company, which produces liquid fuels, chemicals, and low-carbon electricity, declared a dividend per share of R5.00, up four percent from the previous comparative period, and said it had invested R681 million in skills and socio-economic development.

Sales volumes were impacted by supply chain bottlenecks in December, with performance chemicals up three percent while base chemicals dipped one percent and liquid fuels sales volumes were down three percent.

"Our sustained focus on cost, cash and capital conservation drove a largely strong set of results, notwithstanding continued macro-economic volatility," joint president and CEO Bongani Nqwababa said.

"The recent recovery in global oil and product prices positively impacted our results, however this was offset by operational challenges at our Natref and mining operations, currency effects and poor economic conditions in South Africa."

Natref’s production volumes were down 21 percent owing to plant shutdowns and an unexpected Eskom electricity supply interruption at the start of the financial period.

The company said the current economic climate remained volatile and uncertain and oil price and foreign exchange movements outside its control may impact its results, but its focus remained firmly on managing volume growth, cost optimisation, effective capital allocation, focused financial risk management and maintaining an investment grade credit rating.

"We expect an overall strong operational performance for the year ending 30 June 2018," it added.

Sasol said base chemicals sales volumes, excluding merchant ethylene, were likely to be between one percent and three percent higher in the year to June 2018 than the prior year, with US dollar product pricing expected to follow oil prices.

Normalised operating profit for the full financial year was estimated to be between R3 billion to R5 billion, the company said.

- African News Agency