James Hardie asbestos claims spike

There has been another unexpected spike in asbestos claims linked to James Hardie products, with the average cost of settled claims coming in higher than expected.

There has been another unexpected spike in asbestos claims linked to James Hardie products, with the average cost of settled claims coming in higher than expected.

At the same time the company has raised the prospect that the number of asbestos claims cases could peak several years from now, although it said it needed more time to see if this trend would continue.

For the past few years, James Hardie actuaries had predicted that the "peak year" for asbestos claims was the 2011 financial year. Figures released on Monday show between March and June this year, the company received 160 new claims. This is above expectations of just 135 claims. Also, the cost of payouts is running higher.

The higher numbers are expected to put pressure on a compensation fund for victims of James Hardie's asbestos products. The company makes annual contributions to the fund.

The figures come as James Hardie said its profit expected to remain steady as housing conditions in the US and Australia improve.

Chief executive Louis Gries said sales in the US increased 10 per cent and those in Australia have risen 5 per cent over the three months to June 30.

James Hardie reported a first quarter operating profit of $US52 million ($56.9 million), up 19 per cent from the previous corresponding period.

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