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UK outsourcer Serco raises dividend, profit forecast after robust H1

(Reuters) - British outsourcing firm Serco Group Plc raised its annual profit forecast and dividend on Thursday, encouraged by a better-than-expected first-half performance partly driven by more immigration contracts in Australia and the UK.

The London-listed company, which provides defence, security, immigration, health and transport services for governments in more than 20 countries, however, said second-half profit would be lower than the first because of higher costs.

The company said it would hand out an additional 9 million pounds ($10.95 million) in one-off payments to around 45,000 non-management staff in the coming weeks to help them deal with surging inflation.

Serco, one of the suppliers supporting the government's test-and-trace programme over the last two years, had benefited from Britain's COVID-19 contracts.

The group said lower demand for the COVID-19 services would reduce its revenue by around 480 million pounds in 2022.

Serco expects underlying trading profit of 230 million pounds, from an earlier forecast of 225 million pounds.

Interim dividend was increased by 18% to 0.94 pence a share and its order book rose to 14.6 billion pounds, it said.

($1 = 0.8220 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Rashmi Aich)