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S.African service provider Bidvest reports 6% half-year profit rise

* Declares interim dividend of 290 cents a share

* Says revenue grew by 3.4% to 44.4 billion rand

* Economic recovery is uncertain, it says

* But its business is poised for growth, firm says

JOHANNESBURG, March 1 (Reuters) – South Africa’s diversified service provider Bidvest Group reported a 6.1% year-on-year rise in profit for the six months that ended Dec. 31, the company said on Monday.

Profit was lifted by the contribution from PHS, the UK-based hygiene company bought in December 2019. It was also boosted by higher demand for hygiene and facility services, DIY products and bulk commodity services.

Bidvest had embarked on a portfolio clean-up just before the pandemic struck Africa’s most industrialised economy – its primary market. It unbundled its food services business, booked impairment costs in an airline and disposed of its vehicle transport services.

Its normalised headline earnings per share (HEPS), which excludes some items such as acquisition costs and COVID-19 related expenses, was 651.6 cents for the six months, up 6.1% from the corresponding period a year ago.

HEPS is the main profit measure for South African companies.

Its revenue for the period grew by 3.4% to 44.4 billion rand ($2.95 billion), the company said.

Bidvest, which provides business-to-business solutions in cleaning, hygiene, travel, catering, freight, and logistics, declared an interim dividend of 290 cents per share, up 2.8%.

Bidvest said it has been able to bring most of its employees back to work after COVID-19 related lockdown measures were eased in South Africa, but estimates that the impact of the pandemic will continue.

“Looking ahead, it is likely that the economic downturn will persist with the pace of recovery remaining largely uncertain,” Mpumi Madisa, the company’s Chief executive said.

But with a leaner structure of the group and scalable operating model, it is “well placed for growth,” she said. ($1 = 15.0379 rand) (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee Editing by Keith Weir)

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