* James Hardie Q1 adjusted profit $89.3m vs $90.2m
* North America fibre cement profit up 15%, Europe, Asia
* Company forecasts FY21 profit in $330m-$390m range
* Shares near record high
SYDNEY, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Australian building materials
giant James Hardie Industries Plc on Tuesday forecast a
potential rise in full year profit as it reported steady first
quarter earnings due to Americans turning to home renovation in
the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance, which sent the company's shares higher,
strikes a rare optimistic note at a time when many industries
face profit declines due to shutdowns to slow the spread of the
coronavirus. Dozens of Australian companies have withdrawn
guidance because of uncertainty caused by the outbreak.
James Hardie, the world No. 1 maker of fibre cement
sheeting, said underlying profit dipped just 1% in the three
months to end-June, from the same period a year earlier. Sales
in North America, its main market, remained steady, while
shutdowns hammered sales in its Europe and Asia Pacific
The Sydney-listed company said it now expects underlying
profit of between $330 million and $390 million in the year to
March 2021, potentially bettering the previous year's $352.8
James Hardie shares jumped as much as 7.6% in morning trade,
close to the stock's record closing high in February before
concern about the virus upended global markets. The broader
Australian share market was up 0.9%.
The company's guidance was "a confident signal, with most
U.S. construction-exposed companies choosing to provide only one
quarter of guidance," said Credit Suisse analysts in a research
James Hardie Chief Executive Jack Truong said the guidance
was based on improving home building and renovation in the
United States since May. Truong added the projection did not
factor in the possibility of a second or third wave of the virus
in the United States where "half the country has to be shut down
for weeks or months".
To date, U.S. homebuilding has gradually recovered,
bolstered by historically low borrowing rates and stronger
demand for living and working in suburbs as companies let
employees work from home in the pandemic.
The company's statutory net profit, which sets aside money
to compensate people made sick by its discontinued asbestos
products, slumped 89%.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and A K Pranav and Arundhati
Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Jane Wardell)