South African sugar company Illovo Sugar has reported a 33% rise in full-year headline earnings per share thanks to higher sugar prices.

Illovo, which grows sugar cane and makes white sugar and related products, said headline EPS, which strips out exceptional items and their tax effects rose 33% to 136.8 cents for the year to 31 March 2003. Revenues rose 17% to just over 7bn rand (US$900.8m).

"A substantial increase in cane and sugar production, strong performance from downstream operations, improved domestic market sales and a weaker rand contributed to these results," the company was quoted by Reuters as saying.

However, the company gave a less optimistic outlook for the current financial year: "The results in the forthcoming year will be impacted by disappointing rainfall in South Africa this past summer. The first official cane estimate released in early April was approximately 12.5% below last year's final production figure.

"The rand is considerably stronger at present compared with the same period last year and there will be a significant negative effect on earnings should the rand continue to trade at current levels for the remainder of the 2003/04 financial year," Illovo added.