SYDNEY – An expanding TV production slate and strong overseas program sales helped Australia’s Southern Star Group post a 28% hike in operating profit to A$6 million ($4.8 million) on gross sales of $32.8 million in its first six months as a public company.Noting the majority of its profits are earned in the second half, directors said Monday they are confident the company will achieve the forecast full-year profit of $11.2 million on revenue of $83 million. The film and TV production, distribution and manufacturing group was listed on the Australian stock exchange in September and is capitalized at about $144 million. Exec chairman Neil Balnaves noted the entertainment division has 274 hours of production scheduled, and that doesn’t include “Catchphrase,” the five-evenings-a-week gameshow which imminently is expected to be commissioned by the Nine network. The acquisition of distrib rights to the U.S. kids show “Barney” will continue to fuel overseas sales, the company said. Lensing has begun on Southern Star’s Aussie pic “The Well,” directed by Samantha Lang and scripted by Laura Jones (“The Portrait of a Lady,” “A Thousand Acres”), and casting is being wrapped up on “Seven Little Australians,” a family film to be helmed by Carl Schultz. The group is installing a CD plant which will dupe CDs, CD-ROMs and DVD software, and it will be completed by the first quarter of the next fiscal year, Balnaves added.