Sasol raised its interim dividend slightly despite a 17% drop in net profit for the six months to end-December.

In its results released on Monday morning, the chemicals group declared a R5 interim dividend, 4% higher than the R4.80 it paid in the matching period in 2016.

Its interim revenue grew 3.8% to R88bn, but higher costs results in its after-tax profit declining 17% to R7.7bn.

One-off costs booked during the reporting period included scrapping a US gas-to-liquids project valued at R1.1bn and a further R2.8bn write-down of its Canadian shale gas assets, leaving their remaining carrying value at R3.5bn.

Sasol reported its basic earnings per share (EPS) declined by 21% to R11.29. But its headline earnings per share (HEPS), which excluded the one-off write-downs, grew 17% to R17.67.

Sasol’s liquid fuels sales fell 3% to 59-million barrels due to lower production at its Natref refinery and slower South African economic growth;

Natref’s production volumes plunged 21% owing to plant shutdowns and "an unexpected Eskom electricity supply interruption".

Good news from Natref was its refining margins increased by 16% to $9.73 a barrel.

The group splits its operations under joint-CEOs Bongani Nqwababa, who heads its South African businesses, and Stephen Cornell, who is in charge of projects in the US and elsewhere.

Sasol’s Lake Charles Chemicals Project (LCCP) in the US is 81% complete and will benefit from recently introduced tax reforms.

"Once fully operational, the LCCP will transform Sasol’s earnings profile. The start-up of this world-scale chemicals facility and the implementation of our broad-based black economic empowerment ownership structure, Sasol Khanyisa, are landmark milestones to be delivered this calendar year," Cornell said in the results statement.

"Encouraging recent developments signal a more stable political and investor friendly outlook for the country, in addition to a more positive global growth outlook with stronger demand in markets where we operate," Nqwababa said.

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