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Holcim Triples First-Half Profit, Launches Ambuja Bid

Switzerland's Holcim nearly tripled first-half net profit, boosted by the sale of a stake in its South Africa unit, and said it would bid for another 20% in India's Ambuja Cements.

Net profit at the world's second-largest cement maker rose to 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($1.99 billion) after Holcim sold 85% of its 54% stake in Holcim South Africa in June, resulting in a capital gain of 1.11 billion francs.

The average forecast in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts was for a net profit of 1.086 billion francs. The forecast did not include the one-off gain from the South Africa sale, because analysts were unclear what the number would be.

"Another set of shining results. It is especially pleasing that North-America is only showing a drop of 0.8%, despite a real-estate crisis," bank Wegelin said in a note.

Separately, Holcim said it would launch a public takeover offer for another 20% of the share capital of Ambuja Cements Ltd in a bid worth around $1.12 billion.

"Provided that the public offer is accepted in full, Holcim's stake in (Ambuja) will rise to more than 56 percent," Holcim said in a statement.

Holcim said it was also buying 3.9% of Ambuja on top of its existing 32.3% share, pending regulatory approval, requiring it to make an offer to other shareholders according to the Indian takeover code.

The public bid would be for 154 Indian rupee ($3.74) per share, representing a 20% premium over the average price of the shares for the last two weeks, Holcim said.

Shares in Ambuja rose 5.6% on the news and were last at 136.20 rupees.

Holcim was advised by Merrill Lynch.

Holcim is pursuing an aggressive takeover policy and in July said its C$681 million bid for the minority shares in Canada's St.Lawrence Cement Group had been successful.

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