LEBANON - Lebanon's largest construction firm, Solidere, announced Thursday that despite the global financial and real estate crisis, it has recently signed a contract to sell a plot of land for $168 million.

The announcement came as the largest company in market capitalization on the Beirut Stock Exchange posted a 37 percent increase in its profit in the first half this year compared with the year before. Solidere said in a statement that its net profit reached $83 million by June 30.

Solidere - known for rebuilding Beirut's downtown that was destroyed during the 1975-90 civil war - has recently began expanding its business to other countries.

But despite Solidere's claim that its sales have not been much affected by the global financial and real estate crisis, its shares dropped from their peak price this year of about $40 in July to 16.97 on Wednesday.

Solidere said that the total value of land it sold in central Beirut so far this year is $310 million, including a contract signed recently for the sale of the plot worth $168 million. The statement did not say when the land was sold or name the buyer.

Also, Solidere said that its giant "Souk of Beirut" project that includes commercial markets, restaurants and offices will open in the first half of 2009. Most of the shops, offices and restaurants inside the project will have already been rented by the opening and this will bring additional annual income of $25 million.