August 29, 2008

Flat Profit Forecast for 2009; LYTTELTON PORT OF CHRISTCHURCH


Christchurch's main port Lyttelton is forecasting a flat profit of about $10 million for 2009 after posting a 7 per cent higher profit of $10.34m profit for the June 2008 year.

Chief executive Peter Davie said Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) was cautiously optimistic for the coming year and expected net earnings for 2009 to be "approximately $10m" but much depended on the economic situation. LPC was expecting some growth in 2009, but it was not clear what level.

At this stage, cargo volumes were holding up, but given the economy was in recession the company was mindful "things can change quickly".

LPC was examining options such as land reclamation to expand its coal handling facilities for coal coming from the new underground Pike River coal mine on the West Coast near Greymouth. It might need about 2 hectares, Davie said, and such a project would take up to two years to complete.

The June 2008 year had produced a strong result with record profit and record volumes of cargo through the port.

The $10.43m result was 7% ahead of last year's $9.6m. A final 3.6c dividend, to be paid on November 12, the day of the annual meeting, increases the annual rate from 4c to a fully imputed 5.1c a share. The gross dividend of 7.611c gives a yield of 3.3%, based on yesterday's unchanged closing share price of 230c. Earnings a share rose from 9.4c to 10.1c.

LPC handled a record 9.8 million tonnes of cargo, up 9%, helping push revenue ahead 9.2% to $83.4m.

Total container trade rose 9.8% to 250,657 20-foot equivalents and vehicle imports leapt nearly 30% as importers rushed to beat the February 1, 2008 timing for change of vehicle emissions regulations. Coal trade, a mainstay of the port, rose 3.5% at 2.24m tonnes with coal set to become even more important once Pike River Coal starts exporting through the port.

Container dairy trade rose 18% to 139,000 tonnes though is still a small part of the port's exports.

LPC chairman Rodger Fisher said port rationalisation was needed in New Zealand for the sector to achieve the best returns.

Asked about a link or merger talks between LPC and the Port of Otago, Davie said, "That's not something happening at the moment."

(c) 2008 Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.