NZ's Michael Hill H1 profit grows modestly

WELLINGTON Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:37pm EST

WELLINGTON Feb 15 (Reuters) - New Zealand based jewelry retailer Michael Hill International Ltd first half profit rose nearly 6 percent on higher sales, the company said on Friday.

The company, which has stores in New Zealand, Australia and North America, said net profit for the six months to Dec 31 was NZ$27.8 million ($23.6 million) compared with the previous year's NZ$26.3 million.

In January, Michael Hill International forecast a slight lift in half year earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) after a 2.6 percent rise in same store sales, which it said was pleasing but below its expectations.

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were NZ$36 million, at the top end of the guidance range given last month.

The company, controlled by founder Michael Hill and family interests, declared a dividend of 2.5 cents a share against last year's 2 cents.

Michael Hill shares closed on Thursday at NZ$1.23, down around 1 percent for the year, against a 4 percent gain for the benchmark NZX-50 index.

($1=NZ$1.18) (Gyles Beckford)