Titan H1 net up 4 pct to 125 mln

Cement producer Titan said yesterday first-half net profits rose 4 percent, slightly below market expectations, as steady demand at home and in the Balkans offset weaker sales in the United States. Net profits rose to -125 million, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 3 percent to -222 million. Greece’s largest cement producer said sales declined 1 percent to -757 million. «Southeastern Europe was the fastest-growing region during the first half of the year, with strong volume growth in all markets,» Titan said in a statement. «The pronounced weakness in the US housing market continued to affect sales volumes across all lines of products,» it said. The company said results were also affected by the weakening of the US dollar versus the euro and that, at constant exchange rates, group turnover would have increased 2 percent with EBITDA up 5 percent. Apart from Greece and the USA, Titan has operations in Egypt, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). At home, it competes with Heracles, majority-owned by France’s Lafarge. The stock trades at 11.4 times estimated 2007 earnings, compared with a multiple of about 15 for European peers, according to Reuters Estimates. Albania plant Separately, the group announced it will build a cement plant in Tirana, Albania, costing -170 million in an area north of the capital. Titan said its Albanian subsidiary Antea Cement ShA signed a contract with the specialized Chinese cement equipment maker CBMI Construction Co Ltd after securing a 99-year lease on the land and the right to use quarries. The plant will start producing 1.5 million tons of cement per year to supply Albania’s booming construction industry and international markets when it starts work in December 2009. Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha welcomed Titan’s investment as a vote of confidence by foreign investors and said it would be joined by three bigger projects that will increase investments in the industry to -1 billion. (Reuters)

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