July 15, 2010 / 6:56 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Merafe sees return to profit in first half

* Merafe sees H1 headline EPS of 7-8 cents

* Forecast compares with H1 loss of 3 cents/share last year

* Shares up 6.2 percent

(Adds details, shares, analyst)

JOHANNESBURG, July 15 (Reuters) - South Africa’s ferrochrome producer Merafe (MRFJ.J) said on Thursday it expects to report a return to black for the six months to end June after it boosted output on the back of rising demand, sending shares up.

Merafe said it expected to report first-half headline earnings per share of 7-8 cents, up from a loss 3 cents per share last year.

Headline earnings are the main profit gauge in South Africa and strip out certain one-off and non-trading items.

“(The forecast) is better than expected ...especially coming from a previous loss, it is generally positive,” said Richard Hart, an analyst at Afrifocus Securities.

Merafe Resources shares were up 6.2 percent at 138 rand at 1300 GMT, out performing a 1.0 percent rise in the JSE All Share Index .JALSH

Merafe last year reported a first-half headline loss owing to low international ferrochrome prices, a firmer rand and lower output due to the economic downturn. [ID:nL4313544]

Demand for ferrochrome, used in stainless steel to prevent corrosion, slumped during the economic crisis, forcing companies in top producer South Africa to cut on output.

Merafe’s joint venture with Xstrata XTA.L has since restarted most of its furnaces when the market began to turn in the third quarter of last year. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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