January 31, 2020 / 6:40 AM / in 24 days

UPDATE 1-South Africa's Tongaat posts smaller interim loss

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JOHANNESBURG, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Scandal-hit South African sugar producer Tongaat Hulett Ltd reported a smaller half-year interim loss on Friday, with improved performance in Zimbabwe and Mozambique offsetting subdued sales in its home market.

Tongaat said in November a PwC probe found that certain senior executives overstated profits and certain assets by using “undesirable accounting practices”, prompting the agriculture and agri-processing company to restate its 2018 financials.

Headline loss per share for the first six months ended Sept. 30 came in at 235 cents, compared with a loss of 322 cents in the restated figures for the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell 1.5% to 8.085 billion rand ($564.10 million).

The company said its South African sugar operations continue to be hit by subdued local sales and low-margin exports despite a recent modest recovery. The business made a loss of 283 million rand during the period.

Tongaat, which produces a range of sugarcane and maize-based products, said it is making progress in cutting debt and improving cash flow.

It said it has already met its first debt reduction milestone of 500 million rand as defined in its refinancing agreements with funders while assets disposal assessments were at an advanced stage.

“Tongaat Hulett is considering multiple options, with its main priority to protect shareholder value while we honour standstill agreements in a responsible way,” the company said in a statement.

The company, which voluntarily suspended trading in its shares in June as it prepared to restate its financial results, said the Johannesburg Stock Exchange had agreed to lift the suspension from Feb. 3. ($1 = 14.3325 rand) (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Subhranshu Sahu)

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