MIDDAY UPDATE: Fletcher stock sinks as kiwi unit props up Oz

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 20 (BusinessDesk ) - Shares of Fletcher Building sank 5.8 percent after the country's biggest listed company reported flat first-half earnings, which were propped up by the kiwi units.

Net profit rose to $146 million in the last six months of 2012 from $144 million a year earlier, on a 3 percent lift in sales to $4.38 billion. The shares fell 52 cents to $8.80 after the announcement as Fletcher said it wasn't seeing any improvement in the Australian business.

“The pace of new residential construction in New Zealand has improved substantially over the past six months in both Canterbury and Auckland,” chief executive Mark Adamson said in the statement. “By contrast, in Australia, weak market conditions have continued in the residential and commercial construction sectors.”

The biggest deterioration came from Crane Group, the Australian pipe manufacturer and distribution company acquired in early 2011 for $1.2 billion in cash and scrip with the aim of diversifying Australian earnings.

Trade Me flags more acquisitions as interim earnings beat IPO outlook

Wellington-based Trade Me is looking at more acquisitions after making three smallish buys last year in a bid to keep its growth momentum going.

Chief executive Jon Macdonald said Trade Me plans to keep “investing sensibly” to grow: “We’ll likely augment our portfolio with judicious investments over the coming years.”

The online auction site lifted net profit 2.7 percent to $37.4 million in the six months ended Dec. 31 from a year earlier, on an 18 percent boost in sales to $80.4 million. The shares fell 3.4 percent to $4.26.

Macdonald said the company is comfortable with analysts’ forecasts for annual earnings, with trading in the last six weeks consistent with the first half. Trade Me is expected to post net profit of $77.5 million on sales of $163.9 million, based on the median forecasts compiled by Reuters.

Crown accounts look less bleak at the half-year point

The government's books aren't looking as bad at the half-way point of the financial year, with a delayed Treaty settlement meaning $186 million of costs hasn't eventuated yet.

The operating balance before gains and losses (obegal) was a deficit of $3.19 billion in the six months ended Dec. 31, 4.7 percent smaller than expected in the December half-year economic and fiscal update, according to the Crown’s latest accounts. Core tax revenue of $27.34 billion was just 0.1 percent off the HYEFU forecast, while core expenses of $34.14 billion was 0.8 percent below forecast.

The government is trying to get its books back in the black in the 2014/15 financial year after taking serious hits from the global financial crisis and Christchurch earthquakes. In the update just before Christmas, Treasury forecast an obegal surplus of just $66 million in the 2014/15 financial year, down from the $197 million buffer flagged in the May budget.

(BusinessDesk)

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