South Africa's Clover posts higher H1 earnings, to focus on local market

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African dairy and beverages maker Clover said on Monday it planned to re-enter certain local markets, putting on hold Africa expansion plans as it posted an almost doubling of interim earnings which were lifted by higher prices.

Clover, whose brands include Tropika juices, said headline earnings per share for the six months to December totaled 77.3 cents, a rise of 90 percent.

Headline earnings are the main profit gauge in South Africa and exclude certain one-off items.

The company said it will raise prices again this year to offset higher operating costs after its margins benefited from an increase in the previous year.

"Compared to the previous corresponding period, this reporting period benefited from selling price increases implemented during January 2013 and July 2013 to recover higher costs driven by inflationary pressures," Clover said.

Chief executive Johann Vorster said higher earnings also stemmed from investments made in the expansion and cost-cutting project Cielo Blu, which involves moving production facilities closer to milk sources in the coastal areas of South Africa.

He also said the company planned to re-enter domestic yoghurt and custard markets.

"We are not looking at expanding anymore than we already have in Africa. The focus going forward will be trying to re-enter the yoghurt and custard market," he said.

Clover ended a partnership with French food maker Danone last year, which was how the South African company had a presence in the local yoghurt market.

Clover declared an interim gross dividend of 16 cents.