Gases and welding products group African Oxygen (Afrox) has recorded a 22% rise in first-half headline earnings per share (HEPS) to 93.3c, which was at the lower end of its recent guidance.

The improvement in earnings was as a result of increased volumes and operational efficiencies, the company said in a statement on Friday.

Afrox makes the bulk of its income in SA, making its susceptible to the performance of the local economy.

It has also operations in other parts of Africa, including Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana.

Group revenue was up 6.8% to R2.79bn in the six months to end-June as the company increased volumes in certain sectors of the business and net profit increased to R296m, from R244m.

"Within industrial gases, the demand for our bulk products was above the comparative period, resulting in increased volumes in most sectors," the company said.

"On-site revenue increased from new business and expansion at existing customers, despite the impact of major plant outages."

The company said the local economic environment was expected to remain weak in the foreseeable future, with emerging Africa affected by lower economic growth and lack of investment in infrastructure projects.

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