May 19, 2020 / 1:40 AM / 15 days ago

Australia-listed James Hardie annual profit jumps on strong U.S. sales, shares rise

(Reuters) - James Hardie Industries PLC (JHX.AX), the world’s biggest fibre cement maker, on Tuesday reported a 17% jump in annual adjusted net operating profit, boosted by strong sales in its key U.S. market that sent its shares up as much as 14%.

Even as the U.S. housing market plumbed multi-decades low in March, which made for very volatile conditions, James Hardie’s performance in the month was “exceptionally strong”, chief executive Jack Truong noted.

The company, whose U.S. cement sales accounts for a majority of total sales, said profit for the year ended March 31 came in at $352.8 million, up from $300.5 million a year ago and was well within previous given guidance.

For the first-quarter of fiscal 2021, the Dublin-based company said that it expects its North America fibre cement segment’s earnings before interest and tax margin to be in the range of 22% and 27%, compared with 25.3% for three-months ended March.

However, James Hardie said it was unable to provide annual guidance at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on demand in the countries in which it operates.

Earlier in May, the company slashed capex and said it would suspend dividend payouts indefinitely, impose a hiring freeze and reduce headcount to cope with hit from closures of manufacturing plants due to coronavirus-related curbs.

Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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