Australia's Wesfarmers reports record 62% net profit rise

PERTH, Australia (AP) - Australian farming supplies and minerals group Wesfarmers said Tuesday that net profit for the fiscal year ending June 30 was a record 873.1 million Australian dollars (US$624 million), up 62.2 percent the previous year's A$538.2 million (US$385 million). 

The Perth-based conglomerate, said the 2004 earnings included a net A$303.9 million (US$217 million) gain from the sale of the Landmark rural services business in late August 2003. 

Earnings before asset sales came in at A$569.2 million (US$407 million), an increase of 18.1 percent over the year-earlier A$481.9 million (US$344.5 million). 

"Directors are pleased with the performance of the group and are budgeting another increase in normalized profits in all major divisions in the 2004/05 year,'' the company said in a statement. 

Wesfarmers started life in 1914 as a farmers cooperative and has grown into a major supplier of chemicals, machinery and insurance to farmers. It also operates coal mines, distributes liquefied natural gas and owns the popular Bunnings chain of do-it-yourself stores. 

Wesfarmers said that increased earnings in the latest period were recorded for hardware, chemicals, fertilizers and insurance, with reduced contributions from energy and industrial/safety. 

Operating revenue, excluding the Landmark sale, was flat at A$7.7 billion (US$5.5 billion). 

Directors declared a tax-paid final dividend of 92 cents (US$0.66) per share, up from 85 cents (US$0.61) in the previous year. - AP 

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