May 19 (Reuters) - South Africa's No.3 private hospital group Netcare Ltd reported a 20 percent rise in first-half profit on Monday, thanks to a weaker rand currency and strong local demand.
Netcare, which also runs one of Britain's largest private hospital networks, said adjusted headline earnings per share totalled 76 cents in the six months to end-March, compared with 63.5 cents a year earlier.
Headline EPS, South Africa's most widely watched profit gauge, strips out certain one-off and non-trading items.
Netcare said sales rose 17.3 percent to 15.4 billion rand ($1.5 billion) with currency conversion accounting for 11.2 percent, or 1.4 billion rand, to the increase.
While demand for private healthcare is increasing in South Africa thanks to a fast-growing middle class, tentative economic growth in the United Kingdom has led to a drop in the number of Britons with private medical insurance.
"The demand for private healthcare within South Africa is expected to remain strong," Netcare said. "We remain optimistic about the medium and longer term prospects of the UK business."
Netcare lifted its half-year dividend by 18.5 percent to 32 cents per share.
Shares in the company, which are up about 6 percent so far this year, gained 1.3 percent to 25.98 rand by 0845 GMT. ($1 = 10.3510 South African Rand) (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa)