MIDDAY UPDATE: Fulton Hogan profit plunges as Oz unit lags

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 26 (BusinessDesk) - Privately-held construction firm Fulton Hogan reported an 89 percent plunge in annual earnings after an Australian joint venture beset by poor weather eroded profit, and prompted the New Zealand firm to pare back its growth aspirations on the other side of the Tasman.

Net profit dropped to $7.9 million in the 12 months ended June 30 from $73.9 million a year earlier, in what departing chairman Ed Johnson described as a "disappointing and totally unacceptable group performance," according to the company's annual review, mailed to shareholders. The slide in profit came even as the construction firm boosted revenue 12 percent to $2.73 billion.

Fulton Hogan took a $27.4 million charge from losses in associate companies and joint ventures, and has logged a $55.6 million provision for future losses from its JV.

The Pacific Highway project in New South Wales has been a monkey on its back this year, with the A$705 million upgrade running into difficulties with a stream of bad weather holding up work.

Managing director Nick Miller said the company is slowing its growth aspirations in Australia after building its presence across all states and territories in the world's 12th biggest economy, which was "critical to our strategy." The company rejigged its Australian operations to attract more specialists in its two work streams - industries and construction.

"Absolutely we've had a tough year, but we are very confident between the board and myself we have the business back on track, back to a stable position, and our performance in the first quarter would underpin that," Miller told BusinessDesk.

Ross Asset investors want liquidation put out for tender

A group of investors in the failed Ross Asset Management group has asked the High Court to be admitted as a party to proceedings and called for the liquidation of the companies to be put out to tender.

A tentative new date of Dec. 10 has been set for the Financial Markets Authority to update the High Court on the Ross Asset Management receivership, by which time receiver PwC is expected to have applied to liquidate the group.

At the court today, Bruce Tichbon, who represents more than 50 percent of investors in David Ross’s group of investment companies, sought to be admitted to proceedings. Tichbon told BusinessDesk he was concerned his group wasn’t being kept in the loop and it was “only by luck” he found out about today’s hearing.

In Tichbon’s memo to the court he also sought for any liquidation to be put out to tender with a clear brief on strategy and costs.

Wellington fund manager Rangatira buys controlling stake in Rainbow's End

Wellington-based fund manager Rangatira Investments will take control of amusement park Rainbow's End after entering into a lock-up agreement to buy operator New Zealand Experience, valuing the company at $13.3 million.

The Trustees of the Estate of George Ryerson Gardiner, which owns 74.86 percent of NZE, have agreed to a lock-in agreement with Rangatira under which the investment company will make a full takeover at 36 cents a share, NZE said in a statement. The trustee’s shares are held by Garlow Management.

NZ Experience shares jumped 9.8 percent to 45 cents, indicating Rangatira might have to sweeten its offer if it wants to buy out all shareholders.

NZ dollar rallies as US Black Friday stokes risk appetite

The New Zealand dollar rallied after the Black Friday sales following Thanksgiving stoked optimism consumer sentiment in the US is on the mend and encouraged investors to seek higher yields.

The kiwi traded at 82.41 US cents at midday in Wellington from 82.40 cents in late New York trading on Friday and up from 81.63 cents in Wellington at the end of last week.

(BusinessDesk)

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