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James Hardie trims FY earnings forecast


Building products group James Hardie has trimmed its earnings forecast for the year, saying conditions in the housing market remain uncertain.

The group on Wednesday revealed it had made a net operating profit of $US31.5 million ($A30.95 million) in the third quarter to December 31, up from a loss of $US4.8 million ($A4.72 million) a year earlier.

The results include the company's asbestos-related costs, plus regulatory costs and tax adjustments.

Excluding those costs, operating profit rose to $US28.8 million ($A28.29 million) from $US27.7 million ($A27.21 million).

Chief executive Louis Gries said that while the US housing market had gained momentum, earnings growth had been constrained by lower sales prices and higher costs.

But, he said, if the US market continued its recovery, earnings were expected to rise.

However, conditions in Australia remained subdued and the group did not expect a substantial pickup soon.

The group downgraded its full year earnings forecast, excluding the asbestos and other costs, to between $US136 million ($A133.61 million) and $US141 ($A138.53) million.

Last November, it forecast full year earnings of between $US140 million and $US150 million.

James Hardie's net operating profit for the nine months to December 31, excluding asbestos and other costs, rose to $US113.1 million from $US109.3 million (to $A111.12 million from $A107.38 million).

Including the costs, net operating profit fell seven per cent to $US123.6 million from $US115 million ($A121.43 million from $A112.98 million).

Mr Gries said that in anticipation of a market recovery in the US, James Hardie would expand its production capacity.

It will spend $US34 million ($A33.40 million) reconfiguring and refurbishing a plant in California, which it had closed in 2008 but now intends to reopen in 2014.

The group said that if it does not undertake any sharebuybacks between now and announcing its full year results in May, it planned to lift its dividend payout ratio.

The final unfranked dividend for the year is expected to be 35 US cents, down from 38 US cents the previous year.