Italy’s Italcementi posted a forecast-beating 22-percent rise in first-half profit on Monday, helped by stronger demand in its core markets, but gave more cautious guidance for the second half. The country’s biggest cement maker reported net attributable profit of 129.4 million euros ($156.2 million) for the first half of 2004, higher than analysts had expected. A 53-percent increase in profit at Italcementi-controlled French cement maker Ciments Francais also came in above forecasts. "They are very good numbers," a London-based analyst said. "Their outlook is cautious, but not unduly cautious - the first half benefited from a comparison with weaker results in 2003."
Ciments Francais reported attributable net profit of 123.3 million euros for the first half. However, higher energy prices tempered the group’s expectations for the rest of the year. "The instability of the international scene and the unfavourable course of raw material costs - in particularly energy - do not allow us to project a trend for the second half that will be as positive as the first," the company said in a statement. It said that, overall, 2004 should yield better results than 2003.