PARIS — French beauty giant L’Oréal posted net profits before exceptional items up 29.6 percent to $754.4 million year-on-year.

All dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates. For six months ended June 30, the firm registered adjusted operating profits, including exchange gains and losses, of $1.03 billion, up 27.2 percent versus the same period in 2001.

"Strong organic growth in sales, together with productivity gains and careful management of exchange rate risks, have brought a marked increase in margins," said L’Oréal chairman and chief executive officer Lindsay Owen-Jones in a statement. "Although it is not possible to extrapolate from the first-half results, they seem extremely encouraging. Our confidence in the results for the year as a whole has been strengthened. Despite an unpredictable economic climate, 2002 should be a very good year for L’Oréal."

As previously reported, L’Oréal’s consolidated first-half group sales were $7.29 billion, up 5.6 percent based on a consolidated basis and 8.6 percent on a like-for-like basis.

Total cosmetics sales were $7.15 billion, up 6.1 percent in consolidated figures and 8.4 percent in like-for-like growth. L’Oréal’s consumer products division closed the half with sales of $3.97 billion, up 6.6 percent in consolidated figures and 9.1 percent in like-for-like terms; luxury products rang up $1.74 billion, a rise of 3.8 percent on a consolidated basis or 5.5 percent like-for-like. Professional products generated $974.3 million, an increase of 6.6 percent or 9.3 percent in like-for-like gains; active cosmetics, $400.4 million, up 9.4 percent on a consolidated basis, and direct marketing and others, $56.5 million, up 12.8 percent.

L’Oréal said it had "good sales growth" of 6.4 percent in Western Europe, which rings up a little under half of the firm’s cosmetics sales. By country, growth was 14.4 percent in the U.K., 9 percent in Spain, 5.6 percent in Germany and 4.5 percent in France. "New growth driver countries," including China, Korea, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa also made "very substantial advances" in the half.

L’Oréal stock closed on the Paris Bourse Wednesday at a unit price of $69.92, up 2.4 percent on the previous day.

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