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Northland Port posts 3.7% rise in first half profit; cargoes growing

Northland Port Corp, which owns half of the Whangarei port operating company, posted a 3.7 percent rise in first half profit as it moved more cargo and it expects a continuation of the trend will boost annual earnings.

Net income increased to $3.8 million in the six months ended Dec 31, from $3.7 million in the year earlier period, the Ruakaka-based company said in a statement. Revenue rose 7 percent to $5.3 million.

Northland Port, which gets the bulk of its earnings from port operations, said cargo through the port increased 7.6 percent to 1.659 million tonnes in the first half and is expected to exceed 3.2 million tonnes for the full year, up from a record 3.095 million tonnes last financial year.

"A lift in the underlying earnings of the group for the full year is thus anticipated presuming these volume forecasts are attained," chairman John Goulter said. He previously said in the company's 2013 annual report that growth in cargo throughput would be at more modest levels than the last few years, signalling a "satisfactory" trading result for the full year.

The port company has in the past 18 months increased storage capacity within the port terminal to more efficiently accommodate logs destined for export, and further development will be required to accommodate anticipated future growth in cargo volumes, Goulter said. Initial designs are being considered for construction of a fourth berth, he said.

Northland Port will pay a dividend of 5 cents a share on March 21, up from 4.5 cents a year earlier.

The latest period included a $170,000 write down of the company's shareholding in Fonterra Cooperative Group, reflecting a drop of about $1.50 per Fonterra share during the six months to Dec.31. At the previous balance date of June 30, Northland Port held 113,343 cooperative shares in Fonterra, which it valued at $7.29 a share.

Excluding one-time items, the port's underlying earnings in the first half rose 8.8 percent to almost $4 million, the company said.

Shares in Northland Port last traded at $3.10 and have gained 10 percent so far this year. Northland Port is 54-percent owned by Northland Regional Council and about 20 percent by Ports of Auckland. It owns half of Northport, the terminal operator, in a joint venture with Port of Tauranga.

(BusinessDesk)