February 4, 2014 / 10:51 PM / in 4 years

Australia's Echo 1st-half underlying profit edges up on cost cuts

SYDNEY, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Australia’s Echo Entertainment Group Ltd posted a pick-up in half-year underlying net profit, slightly ahead of analyst forecasts, as cost reduction measures helped protect earnings in a still soft trading market.

Echo also said its managing director and chief executive officer, John Redmond, would leave the company in the second half and be replaced by Matt Bekier, the chief financial officer and executive director.

Echo, which will lose its exclusive gaming licence in Sydney in late 2019 when larger rival Crown Resorts Ltd opens a high roller facility, said the first half continued to be challenging with soft consumer sentiment across major markets.

Underlying net six months to the end of December, excluding significant items, rose 1.3 percent to A$71.5 million ($63.60 million), compared with five analysts’ forecasts of A$65.9 million, according to Reuters calculations.

The company said net profit in the period was A$46.1 million, compared with A$66.5 million the previous year, impacted by a lower win rate in its VIP business and one-off expenses from restructuring and interest rate swaps.

$1 = 1.1242 Australian dollars Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang

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