Bidvest First-Half Profit Rises as Food-Services Boosts Earnings

Bidvest Group, South Africa’s second-biggest company by revenue, said first-half earnings rose 9.5 percent, boosted by increased profit at its food-services unit, which the company is preparing to spin off, and the benefits of a weaker rand.

Net income rose to 3.03 billion rand ($190 million) for the six months through December, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement on Monday. Revenue gained 12 percent to 103.3 billion rand.

“Bidvest Foodservice achieved real organic growth in local currencies in most businesses in an environment of zero food inflation," the company said. “Trading results in rand overall were buoyed by currency depreciation."

Bidvest, which has interests ranging from car dealerships to catering and pharmaceutical products, announced this month it will sell shares in its food-services business in Johannesburg, 15 months after abandoning a plan to list the unit in London. The company is also seeking to expand outside its home market, where the economy may grow at the slowest pace this year since the 2009 recession, according to government forecasts, amid falling commodity prices and the worst drought in more than a century.

“Trading conditions in South Africa are likely to remain subdued in a low growth environment," Bidvest said. “Further acquisition opportunities in the industrial sector are being pursued."

Trading profit at the food-services unit, Bidvest’s largest by sales, rose 22 percent to 2.3 billion rand. Bidvest South Africa, the second-biggest division, increased trading profit by 5.1 percent to 2.7 billion rand. Freight trading profit fell 9.6 percent, while automotive was 7 percent lower.

Bidvest reported a final cash dividend for the period of 4.82 rand.

Bidvest shares have advanced 9.9 percent this year, valuing the company at 121 billion rand. That compares with a 2.5 percent decline on the FTSE/JSE Africa All Shares Index.