French group Thales posts 16 pct rise in H1 operating profit

PARIS, July 26 (Reuters) - French defense and aerospace group Thales on Wednesday posted better than expected first-half figures as new orders rose and the company's transport unit climbed out of the red.

Operating profit grew 16 percent, or 17 percent on an underlying basis, to 637 million euros ($742 million) on revenues which rose 5.8 percent - 5.9 percent in organic terms - to 7.241 billion. Operating margins added 0.7 percentage points to 8.8 percent.

Analysts were on average looking for operating profit of 588 million euros on sales of 7.138 billion for an 8.2 percent margin, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S consensus data.

The order intake for Europe's largest defense electronics maker rose 10 percent to 5.972 billion euros, dominated by defense and security contracts in mature markets as emerging markets marked a pause despite an express train deal in Dakar.

($1 = 0.8586 euros) (Reporting by Tim Hepher, Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)