Spanish car parts maker Cie Automotive on Thursday reported a 20% hike in first-half profits to EUR26.4m, boosted by recent acquisitions and its incursion into the booming biofuels industry.

Sales rose to EUR662m, up from EUR451m a year ago.

Cie said its recent acquisitions, including Brazilian, Mexican and Spanish firms Nakayone, Nugar and Recyde, plus the sale of its steel division, helped lift its fortunes.

However, the firm highlighted its recent expansion into the biofuels industry as a key growth driver for both the accounting period and the future.

Cie's bioenergy unit Bionor, which makes biodiesel, reported sales of EUR95.8m, up "sharply" from the first half of 2006, helped by burgeoning demand from petrol suppliers in Spain and Europe.

"Biofuels continue to experience sustained growth, helped by high oil prices and European and Spanish [blending] directives," Cie's chief executive Pedro Martin said in a statement.

Cie said it's on track to lift biofuels production to 700,000 tonnes a year by 2009. The company is building factories in Spain and Italy and operates a joint venture with Spanish plastics firm La Seda de Barcelona to supply biofuels.

Ivan Castano