UPDATE 1-Australia's Warrnambool doubles H1 profit amid China demand

Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:48pm EST
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* EBITDA up 105 pct at $53 million

* Outlook for rest of year positive

* Demand from China underpinning growth

SYDNEY, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Australia's Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Holdings Co reported a doubling in first-half profits on Friday, a step towards justifying the rich bidding war that left Canada's Saputo Inc owning almost 90 percent of the company.

Warrnambool said the outlook for the remainder of the year was positive with milk prices supported by strong international demand. The easing in the Australian dollar from its highs last year is also good news for the company.

"The improved market conditions experienced in the last quarter of FY2013 have continued into FY2014," said Chief Executive David Lord.

Warrnambool said earnings before interest, tax and depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the six months to Dec. 31 was A$59.2 million ($53 million) amid strong international dairy demand and pricing, compared with A$29.3 million in the previous corresponding half.

The company's shares were up 1 percent at A$8.74. They have surged around 90 percent since mid-September when Bega Cheese Ltd kicked off the fiercest bidding war in Australia in years.

Saputo eventually beat out Bega and fellow Australian company Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Ltd to claim majority ownership of Warrnambool in January.   Continued...