STEEL merchant group Argent Industrial reported a 40,6% increase in diluted headline earnings per share yesterday, to 75,4c for the year to March 31.

Argent said that despite the increase, its results had been heavily affected by an industry strike in July last year, when parts of its operations were closed for up to three weeks.

The group's revenue rose to R1,8bn from R1,75bn. It attributed the improved results to better sourcing of raw materials locally and internationally.

"The group's global sourcing policy has helped to improve margins in the carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium trading divisions. The steel trading market remains competitive with narrow margins, due to being overstocked at the trader level while being oversupplied by imports and local mills," Argent said.

The group said it had more than doubled its spending on global sourcing and would continue the trend in the period ahead.

Argent said the most significant improvement was a better performance at most of the manufacturing entities, particularly those related to retail and consumer markets.

It declared a dividend of 10c per share, from 7c previously.

Argent said it expected this year's growth trend to continue next year and possibly in 2014.

It said a number of turnaround strategies that had been initiated this year were now starting to show signs of success and that the group looked forward to having all of its unprofitable businesses turn to profit next year.

downingr@bdfm.co.za