SYDNEY Feb 12 (Reuters) - Stockland Corp Ltd, Australia's second-largest property group, reported a 5 percent rise in first-half net profit on Wednesday, supported by improved sales in residential business.
"The operating environment during the half was mixed, with challenges in retail and office markets balanced by a significant improvement in residential," said Stockland chief executive Mark Steinert in a statement, noting a "substantial uplift" in residential sales.
Underlying profit in the half-year ended December rose to A$267 million ($241.14 million)from A$225 million a year ago, which was just shy of four analysts' average forecasts of A$271.2 million, according to Reuters calculations.
Net profit rose to A$298 million from a reported loss of A$147.0 million a year earlier, which was due to asset impairment.
Stockland said it was on track to achieve the upper end of its earnings guidance for the 2014 fiscal year, and expected to grow earnings per share by 5 percent to 6 percent, assuming no material decline in market conditions.
Analysts are expecting Stockland to look at acquisition opportunities, particularly in the residential space due to the company's lack of apartment development capabilities and exposure.
Stockland shares closed at A$3.72 on Tuesday, having gained 8.5 percent for the past year against a 6.0 percent rise in the broader market. ($1 = 1.1072 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang)