February 25, 2008 / 10:42 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-APA Group H1 profit rises, upgrades outlook

(Adds details, background)

SYDNEY, Feb 26 (Reuters) - APA Group Ltd (APA.AX), Australia’s biggest natural gas pipeline investor, posted a 19.6 percent rise in first-half operating profit on increased contributions from assets acquired last year, and boosted its full-year outlook.

APA, formerly known as Australian Pipeline Trust, said operating profit before one-off items was A$39 million ($36.1 million) for the six months ended Dec. 31.

It also increased its underlying earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the full year by around five percent, to A$400-A$410 million from an earlier estimate of A$380-A$390 million.

APA said the rise in operating profit was driven by increased revenues from its pipeline transportation business, contributions from the Directlink electricity transmission business, purchased in February 2007, as well as contributions from Origin Energy Ltd’s (ORG.AX) network business acquired in July.

“Initial contributions from the new businesses during the period are in line with acquisition assumptions and there is real progress on integration activities,” APA said in a statement.

APA declared a total distribution of 14.5 cents per security.

The group owns 10,000 kilometres (6,214 miles) of gas transmission pipelines in Australia and has about 25 percent share of the country’s natural gas transportation market.

APA, 15 percent owned by Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas [PETR.UL], also holds a 17.2 percent stake in gas distributor Envestra Ltd ENV.AX and a one-third interest in the SEAGas pipeline.

Shares in APA, which also owns gas fired power generation and gas processing assets, have fallen 14.3 since the start of the year to Monday’s close of A$3.11. ($1=A$1.08) (Reporting by Fayen Wong)

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