Petrofac Ltd.

reported a higher than expected 67 percent rise in first half profit on Monday and said it expected strong market conditions to continue as oil companies invest to upgrade ageing infrastructure.

Shares in the Jersey based oil and gas services company, which listed last October, rose nearly 9 percent.

Petrofac's H1 2006 results beat our estimates by a surprising margin considering that we had raised estimates following the trading update in July, analysts at Credit Suisse said.

The group said it had benefited as companies spend money on ageing infrastructure that has suffered from under investment over the last two decades, and from an increase in demand for new oil.

We think this is a long term trend, it is not a blip in the industry, it is going to have to be done and we see it carrying on for several years, Chief Executive Ayman Asfari told Reuters.

Shares in Petrofac were up 8.7 percent at 312.51 pence by 1027 GMT, valuing the group at nearly 1.1 billion pounds.

The share has been volatile this year but, at 288p, offers 18 percent upside to meet our target price of 340p (unchanged), Credit Suisse said.


Petrofac said net profit climbed to $52.6 million for the six months to June 30 from $31.5 million previously, as diluted earnings per share rose 60 percent to 15.23 cents.

Asfari said the group planned to continue driving top line growth by expanding its range and amount of services offered and to push its margin up by being more selective in the contracts it bids for.

The group said it had a first half order intake of $1 billion with a backlog of $3.3 billion at June 30, compared with $3.2 billion at the end of 2005.

Market conditions continue to be strong and we believe are likely to remain so as the relative underinvestment in the oil & gas industry in recent years is addressed, Petrofac said.

Petrofac said it now had around 8,000 employees, compared with less than 5,000 a year ago, and Asfari said he continued to see growth but possibly not at the same rate.

The company, which builds, operates, finances and co invests in oil and gas facilities, said it would pay an interim dividend of 2.4 cents per share.