James Hardie profits dive

James Hardie has reported a sharp drop in half-year profit amid ongoing weakness in the Australian and New Zealand housing markets.

The building products maker says net profit for the six months to the end of September dropped 35 per cent to $80.6 million.

Net operating profit - excluding costs related to asbestos compensation, regulation and tax - fell 2 per cent to $75.8 million.

The company says a recovery in the US housing market is offsetting earnings weakness in Australia and New Zealand.

However, Hardie's report also shows a higher than expected 276 new asbestos claims over the period, which is up more than 40 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

James Hardie's chief financial officer Russell Chenu says the company's asbestos liabilities weighed on the result, because of changes in the Australian dollar.

"In the period under review the Australian dollar was slightly weaker than it was in the September quarter of last year and the impact of that is an asbestos adjustment which is adverse for us on the revaluation of the asbestos liability," he explained.

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