James Hardie jumps to record high

Group says it continues capitalise on improvements in US housing market.

James Hardie Industries (JHX) has surged to a record high after posting a strong lift in first-half profit as it continues to capitalise on improvements in the United States housing market.

Shares in the building products manufacturer lifted 14% – its biggest increase since August 2009 – to $11.90 at 1014 AEDT.

In the half-year to September 30, James Hardie posted a net profit of $194.1 million, an increase on $US83.5 million in the previous corresponding period.

In the same period net sales were $US764.2 million, a 13% increase on the previous corresponding period's $US674.1 million.

James Hardie chief executive officer Louis Gries said the results reflected increased volumes and a 25% increase in net sales revenue, "capitalising on the continued improvement in US housing market conditions relative to last year".

"Last year, we invested significantly in organisational capability in expectation of market growth in the US," he said.

"This year we are benefiting from that investment, as evidenced by improved EBIT margins, which at 22% are now within our target EBIT margin range."

James Hardie said the US operating environment continues to reflect an increasing number of housing starts and improving house values. 

In Australia however, despite overall starts being favourable, single family unit starts, a key indicator of underlying demand for the James Hardie business continue to decrease as a proportion of total starts.

"Accordingly, earnings from the Australian business are expected to be only slightly improved compared to the prior year," the group said.