June 21, 2020 / 10:39 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-James Hardie hikes Q1 N. America margin view as housing activity brightens

(Adds details on outlook, background)

June 22 (Reuters) - James Hardie Industries on Monday raised its first-quarter operating profit-margin forecast for its North American business, as it reported improved activity in the housing market over the past seven weeks despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The world’s largest fibre cement maker also lifted its cash guidance to more than $640 million as of June 30, from its previous view of more than $600 million.

The upbeat outlook comes months after the Dublin-based firm was forced to suspend dividends indefinitely as a part of a cost-cutting drive to weather a hit from closures to manufacturing plants because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The better than expected underlying housing market during our Q1 FY21 ... resulted in volume growth in the second half of the first quarter,” Chief Executive Jack Truong said in a statement.

James Hardie now expects an adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margin of 27% to 29% at its biggest business, compared with its earlier view of 22% to 27%, it said. (reut.rs/2YloSYr)

The company, however, forecast a drop of between 11% and 14% in its volumes in Europe, while those in Australia are expected to be flat from last year. (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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