* H1 pretax profit 29 mln stg vs 23.8 mln stg
* Revenue 238.1 mln stg vs 209.2 mln stg
* Interim dividend flat at 14.1 pence
* Shares down 0.4 pct
By Rhys Jones and Neil Maidment
LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - British banknote printer De La Rue said its first-half profit was boosted by a deal to supply currency to South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and said regime-changes and the euro-zone crisis could fuel further growth.
The world’s largest outsourced banknote printer, which produces over 150 national currencies, on Tuesday said its profit before tax and exceptional items rose 22 percent to 29 million pounds ($45.3 million) in the six months to Sept. 24., led by growth at its core currency production business.
“South Sudan is a brand new country and we have done the currency for that,” De La Rue Chief Executive Tim Cobbold told Reuters.
Sudan, Africa’s largest country split in two earlier this year. The Republic of South Sudan achieved independence on July 9, following Africa’s longest-running civil war.
De La Rue, which will supply another currency shipment to cash-starved Libya in December, said first-half revenues grew 14 percent to 209.2 million and held its interim dividend at 14.1 pence per share.
“Regime change has the potential to create opportunities for De La Rue ... if you are an existing supplier to the outgoing regime, they may or may not put you in a good position with the incoming regime to be the continuing supplier, but generally change in that sort of way offers potential to De La Rue and we follow those sorts of things closely,” added Cobbold.
Asked whether the euro-zone debt crisis and the possible break-up of the single currency could benefit the company in the long-run, Cobbold said “that (the crisis) can create opportunities for us” but declined to go into specifics on individual countries.
De La Rue, which will be 200 years old in 2013, said the order book at its currency unit was up 14 percent on the year-end and that print volumes rose 12 percent to 2.8 billion notes.
“Our strong order book in the currency business unit underpins our confidence in meeting our expectations for the full year,” said Cobbold
De La Rue is expected to post an average pretax profit of 54 million pounds for the year to the end of March 2012, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of seven analysts.
The FTSE 250 group, which saw 2011 profit tumble 68 percent after paper production issues, said it was confident that its ongoing turnaround plan would help it deliver an operating profit “in excess of 100 million pounds by 2013/14”.
The group, which also makes passports, driving licenses and cash processing machines, said its other businesses, especially identity solutions and cash processing, had performed well.
Shares in the firm, up 11 percent in the last three months, were down 0.4 percent down at 872.5 pence by 0950 GMT, valuing the business at around 875 million pounds.
Citigroup analyst Ed Steele said the market “continues to underestimate currency demand recovery” and holds a ‘Buy’ rating on the stock.