MIDDAY UPDATE: Manufacturers feel the pain in earnings

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 21 (BusinessDesk) - Manufacturers Skellerup Holdings and Nuplex Industries were punished by disappointed investors today after unveiling interim earnings that fell short of analysts expectations and cutting their forecasts for annual profit.

Skellerup shares dropped 6.7 percent and Nuplex stock sank 6.3 percent, leading the benchmark NZX 50 Index lower.

Industrial rubber goods maker Skellerup reported an 18 percent slide in first-half profit to $9.5 million, with sales down 7.7 percent, missing Forsyth Barr analyst John Cairns’ forecast profit of $11.1 million on sales of $101.5 million. The Auckland-based company trimmed annual forecast net profit to $20 million from a range of between $22 million and $24 million, which was already down from last year’s record $24.7 million.

Nuplex's more than halving of net profit to $11.5 million on an 11 percent decline in sales to $828.7 million was similarly worse than expected, even though the firm had flagged restructuring costs were weighing on this year's result.

Nuplex cut its forecast annual ebitda to between $135 million to $140 million, from a range of $135 million to $150 million, blaming the strong kiwi dollar and weak Australian and European trading conditions. The guidance assumes exchanges rates and trading conditions remain the same in the second half.

Port of Tauranga delivers fatter interim dividend on rejigged policy, record earnings

Port of Tauranga, a government favourite for showing the benefits of partial privatisation, delivered a 66 percent hike in its first half dividend on record earnings of $74.2 million in the final six months of 2012.

The Tauranga-based port, which is 55 percent-owned by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, will pay out 20 cents per share, and has decided to increase the proportion of the dividend paid in the first half.

The port has benefited from industrial strife at rival Ports of Auckland, which has seen freight diverted south and spurred shipping lines to switch, allowing the company to give itself the title of “pre-eminent national freight gateway.”

The result comes the same day as state-owned power company MightyRiverPower, first up for partial privatisation, reported a small improvement in its underlying earnings to $260.1 million. The accounts showed its international geothermal investments in the GeoGlobal Energy Fund had struggled, with a write-down in the value. MRP ended its decade-long partnership with the fund last week.

AMP waves goodbye to Axa

AMP Financial Services will ditch its use of the Axa brand at the end of March after reporting flat earnings of $119 million.

The New Zealand unit is ahead of schedule in integrating Axa after the 2011 merger, and will stop using the brand from March 31. As part of the exit, the two KiwiSaver schemes will be merged, pending regulatory approval given that they're both default programmes.

In Australian dollar terms, the NZ unit showed a 3.9 percent fall to A$73 million. The Australian parent reported a 2.3 percent gain in net profit to A$704 million.



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