MIDDAY UPDATE: Meridian ready for privatisation

By Paul McBeth

Feb. 25 (BusinessDesk) - State-owned power company Meridian Energy is ready for the government to sell down its holding, after reporting a small decline in first-half earnings.

The Wellington-based company reported a 6 percent fall in underlying earnings to $277 million. Net profit rose to $173.3 million from $164.1 million a year earlier after writing up the unrealised value of its contract with Rio Tinto's aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point.

Chief executive Mark Binns said Meridian had “returned to higher profitability this half year and is on track to achieve significant full-year ebitdaf growth.”

“Operationally, we’re in good shape and we’re building resilience against New Zealand’s medium term flat demand outlook,” he said.

Chorus faces bigger price tag for building govt's fibre network

Chorus expects to spend another $300 million on building the government's ultrafast broadband network after running a ruler over its forecasts and finding it's coming up short in about 10 percent of the build areas.

The shares fell 2.3 percent to $2.97 in trading today after the Wellington-based company met earnings expectations, but signalled it will have to stump up with more cash to build the nationwide network.

Chorus expects the total UFB build to be between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, from a previous range of $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion. It flagged capital expenditure of $640 million to $690 million this financial year from previous guidance of $560 million to $610 million.

Chief executive Mark Ratcliffe told an investors' briefing the company is focused on bringing down the building costs, which have got away on the company in about 10 percent of the network's areas. Chorus has held early talks with Crown Fibre Holdings about pushing out some of its year three requirements into year four.

Summerset triples annual profit, pays bigger return

Retirement villager operator and developer Summerset Group more than tripled its net profit, beating the forecast from its 2011 prospectus, and will pay a bigger dividend than what analysts were picking.

Net profit climbed to $14.8 million, or 6.96 cents per share, in the 12 months ended Dec. 31, from $4.3 million, or 2.39 cents, a year earlier, the Wellington-based company said in a statement. That was ahead of the company’s initial public offering forecast of $14.3 million.

The board declared a dividend of 2.5 cents per share, and has set up a dividend reinvestment plan with the support of cornerstone shareholder Quadrant Private Equity. Forsyth Barr analyst Jeremy Simpson was expecting a dividend of 2.1 cents per share.

The shares climbed 4.8 percent to $2.60.



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