September 5, 2017 / 9:16 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Settlement charge hits earnings at South Africa's WBHO

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JOHANNESBURG, Sept 5 (Reuters) - South African builder Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon Ltd (WBHO) reported a 2.5 percent decline in full-year earnings due to its payment towards a fund to develop skills in the sector and give black workers a bigger role.

WBHO, which makes 58 percent of revenue from Australia, said headline earnings per share from continuing operations came in at 1,308 cents for the year ended June, down from 1,342 cents the year before.

WBHO was one of seven construction companies that agreed in October to contribute a total of 1.5 billion rand ($116 million) over the next 12 years towards a development fund.

The group’s total order book increased by 5 percent to 45 billion rand, which was boosted by higher margin work from its roads and earthworks division.

Group revenue increased by 4 percent to 31.9 billion rand, while operating profit before non-trading items fell 1.8 percent to 986 million rand.

Shares in WBHO were up 1.5 percent to 140.15 rand at 0851 GMT.

“The group delivered a positive set of results in a year where market sentiment in Australia was upbeat, while locally the year was characterised by low-growth, a volatile rand exchange rate and political events which impacted South African business confidence,” WBHO said in a statement.

Africa’s second biggest economy slid into recession in March and business and consumer confidence have been dented by high unemployment and credit downgrades by two of the top three ratings agencies following economic and political turmoil.

Despite this, activity in the retail, commercial office and entertainment sectors boosted revenue for WBHO’s building and civil engineering division, which rose 8 percent to 8.1 billion rand.

WBHO, which entered the UK market in June with a 40 percent stake in Byrne Group, declared a final gross dividend of 325 cents per share.

$1 = 12.9575 rand Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter

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