PACKAGING giant Amcor has blamed a strong dollar and challenging conditions for shedding more than 300 jobs at manufacturing sites in Victoria and Queensland.
The move came as Amcor increased its first-half profit by 16.3 per cent to $238.3 million for the six months to December.
The impact of a high Australian dollar sliced some $20 million from the bottom-line result.
"We've have a solid first-half," Amcor's managing director and chief executive, Ken MacKenzie, told an investor briefing on Monday.
"[Earnings per share] increased 7.2 per cent and on a constant currency basis that's 14.1 per cent.
"This improved profit is a result of operating improvements, organic growth in emerging markets, improvement in our product mix through innovation and ... the contribution from acquisition."
Amcor declared an interim dividend of 19.5¢ a share, up 8.3 per cent on last year. This helped Amcor shares close almost 2.5 per cent higher at $9.14 on Monday.
The firm reported an underlying profit of $322 million, a 5.7 per cent increase on the previous corresponding period, following an $83.7 million hit from the closure of its cartonboard mill in Petrie, Queensland.
The Petrie closure will see 220 employees made redundant, while 97 will lose jobs as a result of the mid-year closure of the Thomastown factory and changes at the North Laverton site, both in Victoria.
Mr MacKenzie said its new recycled paper machine at its Botany mill in NSW and recent acquisitions, such as the Shorewood tobacco packaging business, will drive earnings in the short term.
Analysts said Amcor's share price on Monday reflected investors' reaction to its acquisition of the Shorewood tobacco packaging business, reported on Friday, which has plants and assets in the Americas and East Asia.
Amcor reported operating profit before interest and taxes of $344.6 million in its largest business - flexibles - a 4.7 per cent increase despite subdued conditions in developed economies and reflecting the defensive nature of the food, beverage, healthcare and tobacco packaging markets.
Macquarie Bank analyst John Purtell said Amcor's headline growth was broadly in line with expectations, while growth was stronger on a constant currency basis.
"[It's] more of the same from Amcor in terms of solid results and delivery on expectations," Mr Purtell said.
He added that there would be a focus on potential mergers and acquisitions. "They have executed acquisitions such as Alcan [Packaging] very well, so the market is likely to support them."