Mainfreight, the transport and logistics group, posted a 1.1 per cent gain in first-half profit as strong trading in Australia and improving results in Europe were offset by weaker results in the Americas and Asia. The company said it had expected a better first-half result.

Profit rose to $42.2 million in the six months ended September 30 from $41.8m a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. Sales rose to $1.2 billion from $1.1b.

Mainfreight declared an interim dividend of 19 cents a share, up 2 cents from a year earlier, saying even though it was disappointed in the first-half result it had "ongoing confidence for further improvement at the year-end result," with a stand-out full-year result expected from Australia.

"Our Australian businesses have significant momentum, and we expect full-year results for this region to be at record levels," the company said today. "Our European businesses continue to outperform the year prior, and we are seeing incremental improvements in Asia and the Americas as our new leadership teams settle into their roles."

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In New Zealand, revenue rose 10 percent to $317m and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation gained 3.5 per cent to $38m. Its domestic operations faced additional costs associated with servicing inter-Island freight movements via road and coastal shipping following the Kaikoura earthquakes last November. Against that, Mainfreight enjoyed "stronger intra-Island volumes, together with an expanded and improving Logistics warehousing operation."

Australian sales rose about 14 per cent to A$292.9m and ebitda jumped 29 per cent to A$20.8m on the back of "strong sales improvement across our domestic and warehousing divisions," it said.

"Both domestic transport volumes and logistics warehousing activity continue to increase as the pre-Christmas season influences October and November trading," it said. "Air & ocean activity remains subdued compared to the prior period."

Mainfreight's Asian operations recorded a 20 per cent jump in sales to US$37.6m but ebitda tumbled 53 per cent to US$2m in the first half, as gross margins "were adversely affected by the decline in inter-company airfreight revenue."

"Senior management changes took effect from early October, with an ongoing focus on branch profitability improvement," it said.

In the Americas, sales fell 10 per cent to US$203m and ebitda fell 14 per cent to $8.4m, partly reflecting the loss of "a significant airfreight import account" from its air & ocean division. Its domestic transport and logistics divisions "did not achieve trading expectations during the period" while at its CaroTrans wholesale business, revenue was "stable compared to the prior period, halting the decline of the previous two years."

Still, it said activity in all its US operations picked up in September and October and it expected to see results for the full year in line with the 2017 result.

In Europe, sales rose 19 per cent to 163m euros and earnings gained 9.8 per cent to 8.4m euros. "Trading through October and November remains ahead of the year prior," it said.

Mainfreight shares last traded at $24.12 and have gained about 16 per cent this year.