Sealord returns to annual profit, takes provision for Nelson job cuts

Sealord, New Zealand's second largest fishing company, returned to profit in the 2014 year, while taking payroll provisions as it prepares to downsize its Nelson wetfish factory.

The Nelson-based company reported a net profit of $25.3 million in the 12 months ended September 30, turning around a loss of $44.4 million a year earlier, when it wrote off $37.1 million from the sale of its Argentinian unit, according to holding company Kura's financial statements, lodged with the Companies Office.

Sales slipped 2 percent to $448 million, which the company attributed to a strong New Zealand dollar, it said in a separate statement.

The return to profitability saw Sealord declare a $10.5 million dividend to its shareholders, Aotearoa Fisheries, a collection of Maori iwi interests, and Japan's Nippon Suisan Kaisha.

In September the company said it may shed 97 jobs, or about 13 percent of its workforce, as it looked to downsize its Nelson factory, saying it was no longer economically viable in the face of rising costs and flat prices combined with a strong kiwi dollar.

The financial statements show the company increased other payroll provisions to $5.6 million dollars for the upcoming year, from $131,000 a year earlier.

"There is still work to do to ensure Sealord is well positioned into the future, as evidenced by the recent wetfish factory changes," chairman Matanuku Mahuika says.

"But it is good to that Sealord has returned to its legacy of delivering a dividend to shareholders, something that it did each year for more than a decade prior to 2013.

"There has been good growth in the key Australia and New Zealand markets and the efforts of our joint venture partners - the Westfleet fishing business in Greymouth and Petuna aquaculture in Tasmania - have made a positive contribution to the result."

The company is exiting its mussel operations to focus on its core fishing business, putting its 50 percent stake in North Island Mussels up for sale, which it bought out of receivership in partnership with Sanford in 2012. Post balance date, Sealord sold its stake in Eastern Sea Farms, an Opotiki-based mussel farm.

In October, Sealord signed five-year arrangements with the Top of the South Collective, which includes Ngati Koata, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa iwi, Te Atiawa Taranaki and Te Kupenga o Maniapoto, giving the company the annual catch entitlements (ACE) of the iwi in a profit-sharing deal.

The quotas will mean up to 4800 tonne of hoki, orange roughy, southern blue whiting and alfonsino will be caught on Sealord's vessels.

As at September 30, its NZ fishing quota catching rights were valued at $317 million, up from $309 million a year earlier.