Australia's Wesfarmers H1 profit up 11 pct on strong retail businesses

SYDNEY Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:46pm EST

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SYDNEY Feb 19 (Reuters) - Australia's Wesfarmers Ltd reported a 11.2 percent rise in first-half net profit on Wednesday, underpinned by strong retail businesses including Coles supermarkets.

The coal-to-retail conglomerate posted net profit of A$1.429 billion ($1.29 billion)in the six months to December, from A$1.285 billion a year earlier.

Analysts had expected the group to deliver net profit of A$1.326 billion for the half, according to the average of four forecasts.

Wesfarmers said its Coles supermarkets posted A$836 million in first-half earnings, up 10.7 percent, while home improvement chain Bunnings recorded a 8.5 percent rise in earnings to A$562 million.

But the coal division reported a 36.6 percent plunge in earnings, due to lower export coal prices, the company said.

Wesfarmers has agreed to sell its insurance underwriting businesses to Insurance Australia Group Ltd for A$1.85 billion, but this sale remains subject to regulatory approvals.

Wesfarmers shares closed at A$43.40 on Tuesday, having gained 8.5 percent over the past year. ($1 = 1.1071 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang)

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