* First-half pretax profit up 10 pct at 44.1 mln stg
* Revenue rises 0.2 pct
* Raises interim dividend to 2.35 pence from 2.23 pence
* Says Australia business returns to profit
Jan 29 (Reuters) - PZ Cussons Plc, the maker of Imperial Leather soaps, reported a 10 percent rise in first-half profit as growth in the United Kingdom and Asia offset tough trading conditions at its key Nigerian market.
The British soap and shampoo maker said performance of its UK washing and bathing division was robust and that its business in Australia had returned to profit.
The company had said in July that retailers in Australia had devoted greater shelf space to private labels, hurting PZ Cussons’ volumes and margins in the home-care business.
Pretax profit rose to 44.1 million pounds ($69 million)during the six months to Nov. 30. Revenue was flat at 414.8 million pounds, hurt by trading conditions in Nigeria, its largest market.
Unrelenting religious violence in the north, severe floods and weak consumer spending following the removal of a fuel subsidy in Nigeria had prompted the company to warn on profit in 2012.
The company generates about 45 percent of its revenue from Africa, of which Nigeria is the largest contributor. Asia, which includes its business in Australia, accounts for about 20 percent of revenue.
PZ Cussons raised its interim dividend to 2.35 pence per share from 2.23 pence a year earlier.
Shares in the company, which also owns beauty brands Charles Worthington, Sanctuary and St Tropez, closed at 394.4 pence on the London Stock Exchange on Monday. They have risen about 30 percent over the past year.