Saint-Gobain Net Rises 4.7% on Building Demand, Cuts

Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA, Europe's biggest distributor of building materials, posted a 4.7 percent gain in second-half profit, helped by cost cuts and surging demand from construction and manufacturing companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Net income climbed to 596 million euros ($777 million) from 569 million euros a year earlier. The Paris-based company expects a 6 percent gain in operating profit this year, Chief Executive Jean-Louis Beffa said today at a briefing in the French capital.

``European construction is recovering and they have a big distribution business,'' Tobias Woerner, an analyst at Man Securities in London, said before the earnings announcement.

Saint-Gobain, the world's largest glassmaker and the No. 1 supplier of home insulation, is benefiting as economic growth boosts demand, ending a two-year slump which Beffa, 63, to cut jobs. The company set aside 108 million euros against asbestos- related lawsuits in the U.S., it said today.

Shares of Saint-Gobain have gained 21 percent in the past six months, valuing the company at 16.1 billion euros. The stock, which yesterday reached its highest since June 2002, closed at 47.19 euros before today's earnings statement.

Full-year net income rose 4.2 percent to 1.083 billion euros, or 3.18 euros a share, from 1.039 billion euros, or 2.99 euros, a year earlier, the company said. Revenue for the 12 months increased 8.2 percent to 32.03 billion euros.

Saint-Gobain, which supplies components for computer chips and glass screens, benefited from a surge in U.S. factory output that last year saw the Institute of Supply Management's manufacturing index average its highest since 1973.

600450 Saint-Gobain Net Rises 4.7% on Building Demand, Cuts

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