Port of Tauranga lifts first half operating earnings on gain in bulk freight; guidance affirmed
Port of Tauranga [NZX: POT], New Zealand's largest port operator, lifted first-half operating earnings by 11 percent as an increase in bulk freight made up for a drop in container volumes. The company affirmed its guidance for the full year.
Operating earnings rose to $66.7 million in the six months ended Dec. 31, from about $60 million a year earlier. Revenue rose about 16 percent to $137 million, though operating expenses increased 20 percent to $70 million, largely on employee and maintenance costs.
Underlying net profit edged up 0.4 percent to $39.3 million, excluding a one-time $38.3 million gain from the sale of logistics company C3 Limited in 2012.
The company said overall volumes across its docks increased 5.8 percent to 9.9 million tonnes. Exports climbed 6.6 percent to 6.8 million tonnes and imports were up 4.1 percent to 3.1 million tonnes.
An increase in log exports, dairy feed and fertiliser imports offset a 12 percent decline in containers handled during the period, which the company attributed to an 18 percent fall in dairy exports over the comparable period, due in large part to Fonterra's August botulism scare.
Port of Tauranga is pushing to become New Zealand's dominant freight gateway, expanding its wharves, through an estimated $40 million to $50 million dredging plan due to start this year, and has expanded to the South Island, buying 50 percent of PrimePort Timaru and land south of Christchurch to develop another freight hub. It has also invested more in its MetroPort facilities in Auckland.
"These investments coupled with the emerging strength of the New Zealand economy and strong international demand for the country's agricultural and forestry exports will continue to drive increases in cargo volumes across our wharves," said chairman David Pilkington.
The company increased its dividend payout 5 percent to 21 cents per share. The shares were unchanged at $13.85 and are up 1.1 percent this year.
Port of Tauranga affirmed its forecast for full-year earnings of $77 million to $81 million.