Millennium & Copthorne raises dividend on improved underlying earnings

The company will pay a dividend of 2.8c per share on May 20.

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand, the hotel operator and property developer, raised its annual dividend payment as increased occupancy helped deliver a boost in underlying earnings.

The Auckland-based company will pay a dividend of 2.8c per share on May 20, up from 2.4c a year earlier, after its hotel operations delivered a better performance and its property development unit lifted land sales. Net profit after minorities fell to $21.7 million, or 13.7c per share, in calendar 2015, from $30.2 million, or 9.54c a year earlier, when it recorded a one-off $17.6 million gain from the distribution of its shareholding in Chinese property developer First Sponsor Group.

Revenue rose 4.9% to $136.5 million, with its hotel operations posting a 3.6% gain to $86.1 million. The hotels lifted their occupancy rate to 77.1% in the year from 73.7% in 2014.

"This increased dividend reflects the increased operational profitability in 2015 as well as the board's confidence in the future consistent profitability from MCK's core operations," the company said.

Millennium anticipates generating higher returns from a series of hotel refurbishments, and said it will also benefit from New Zealand's growth in tourism.

The company's $40 million upgrade of the Copthorne Hotel Auckland Harbourcity is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

Separately, Millennium-controlled CDL Investments, which develops residential property, reported a 19% increase in profit to $17.5 million on a 7.8% gain in revenue to $47.6 million. That division also raised its dividend to 2.2 cents per share, for payment on May 20.

The company's property portfolio was valued at $265 million as at Dec. 31, up from $206 million a year earlier, and it expects to report a profitable year in 2016 on the strong appetite for residential land.

Millennium shares were unchanged at $1.50, and CDL shares were also unchanged at 62c.