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Hills profit hoist signals new era

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Hills Ltd has almost completed its transition from making clothes lines and steel products to a technology and innovation company, banking an increased profit along the way.

The Adelaide-based group today reported a statutory net profit of $14.1 million for the half year ended 31 December 2013.

Hills managing director Ted Pretty, who earlier this month announced a $5 million in-house innovation centre,  said the restructure was complete, but there was still more change to come.

“We are very pleased with our first half FY14 results. All divisions have performed solidly,” he said in a statement to the stock exchange.

“The results demonstrate that Hills is now a simpler and more streamlined company than it was 12 months ago and that it is well positioned to implement our ‘One Hills’ strategy focusing on technology and innovation.

“Whilst we continue to drive efficiencies and to streamline the cost base, we are now focused on seeking growth in our core health, security, automation and networking businesses – both organically, by adding new products and services into the mix, and by acquisition.”

Pretty said the restructuring of Hills which has involved exiting non-core businesses and closing unprofitable businesses and operations is now largely complete.

“No further restructuring charges and impairments are expected to be taken during FY14 as a result of the continuing transformation program.”

Hills continues to sell its surplus properties.

The transactions to sell steel businesses Orrcon and Fielders to BlueScope are expected to complete by the end of February.

Net cash proceeds from sale will be approximately $80 million.

Hills net debt as at 31 December 2013 was $68 million.

The net cash proceeds from the steel divestments will place the company in a surplus cash position, with capacity for further acquisitions and share buy-backs in line with the company’s strategic and financial objectives, the statement said.

A fully franked interim dividend of 3.4 cents was declared.

In his outlook for the company, Pretty said growth would be steady with a longer-term upside.

“We note the Reserve Bank’s observations that overall, growth of the economy is expected to continue at a below-trend pace over the next year, picking up thereafter.

“Hills’ objective is to outperform the market and our competitors and we are well positioned to meet that objective.

“We enter the second half of FY14 having built strong momentum over the previous six months to achieve our earnings targets.”

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