(Adds home prices, dividend, details about DRP plan, background)
Feb 21 (Reuters) - Australian diversified property developer and landlord Stockland Corp Ltd said on Wednesday its first-half underlying earnings rose 18 percent, buoyed by strong real estate prices in Sydney and Melbourne.
The company said half-year funds from operations - the primary earnings measure for the company - rose to A$436 million ($343.61 million) from A$369 million a year ago, beating estimates of A$378.6 million, according to three analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Half-year revenue from ordinary activities grew to A$1.34 billion from A$1.17 billion a year ago, Stockland said.
Stockland, Australia’s biggest listed residential property company, is closely watched because of its exposure to two markets under pressure: the housing sector, which has started to cool after years of barnstorming growth, and the retail segment, which has been largely subdued over low wage growth prevailing in Australia.
However, a portfolio placing greater focus on Melbourne and Sydney markets together with strong home prices have helped Stockland offset a subdued retail environment.
“We have made considerable progress reshaping the business placing a greater focus on the deep Melbourne and Sydney markets, with particular emphasis on transport and infrastructure corridors,” Stockland said in a statement.
Stockland declared an interim dividend of 13 Australian cents per share, up from 12.6 Australian cents a year ago.
In a separate statement, Stockland said it would suspend the distribution reinvestment plan for the interim period. ($1 = 1.2690 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Syed Saif Hussain Naqvi in Bengaluru; editing by Byron Kaye and Leslie Adler)