RECORD livestock and wool prices and improved seasonal conditions have helped Elders to record a significant jump in net profit for the half year ending March 31.
Elders achieved statutory net profit after tax of $38.3 million, which compares with a $24.6 million profit in the prior corresponding period last year. Underlying net profit has improved $12.3 million on the prior corresponding period to $34.9 million.
In a statement to the ASX, Elders said underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $41.3 million were primarily driven by improved seasonal conditions, and benefits from geographical growth.
Net debt at balance date was $170.4 million, but average net debt over the period fell by $2 million to $142 million. The announcement said the company’s balance sheet remains strong and key ratios are stable.
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Elders focus is on organic and acquitted growth
Elders’ chief executive officer Mark Allison said that the half year results reflected the progress to date of a company-wide focus on organic and acquired growth, in line with the company’s Eight Point Plan and return on capital objectives.
“Our focus has been to ensure we’re continuing to grow our service to clients through strategic initiatives, including an extension of our current product offerings and expansion of our geographical footprint,” Mr Allison said.
Elders arm records $6.5m earnings lift
Mr Allison said Elders’ retail arm has again outperformed the prior corresponding period, with a $6.5 million improvement in earnings, driven by normalised summer conditions and geographical expansion, including the recruitment of high performing staff in Tasmania and New South Wales.
“Earnings from our agency services business improved on the prior corresponding period with an increase of $5.8 million, driven by record livestock and wool prices across the country, and benefits from footprint growth.
“These high livestock prices, coupled with low interest rates, were favourable for the real estate business, generating increased demand for large cattle farming and broadacre cropping properties,” he said.
“Elders increased its turnover of farm land real estate by $76 million or 15 percent, compared with the prior corresponding period.”
Acquisitions including the 30pc equity stake of livestock financing company StockCo and an additional 10pc of the equity in Elders Insurance, boosted financial services earnings for the first half.
High costs impact Indonesian cattle business
The Elders announcement said high cattle costs had adversely impacted Elders’ overseas feed and processing businesses, however this impact was offset by earnings improvements delivered through higher occupancy and increased efficiency at the Killara feedlot.
The exit from Elders’ live export logistics business is well advanced, with completion of the sale expected in the short term.
Return on capital continues to improve on a rolling 12 month basis, recording a 3.8pc increase on the prior corresponding period to 30.2pc, largely driven by the retail and agency businesses.
More benefits expected from agency business
Mr Allison said growth achieved through acquisitions and footprint expansion in the second half of FY16 was expected to deliver further benefits in the retail and agency businesses.
“High prices for both sheep and cattle are likely to continue in the short term and then subside as volumes increase later in the year.
“Demand for livestock properties is expected to ease in line with the potential decline in livestock prices,” he said.
“However, performance in Elders’ West Australian real estate operations are expected to offset this, as the benefits from our recently acquired Southern Districts Estate Agency business located in Bunbury are realised.
“Earnings growth achieved in the first half for financial services is anticipated to continue into the second half, through the StockCo and Insurance acquisitions.”
Mr Allison said gven the above outlook, Elders is expecting to report full year underlying EBIT on the high side of previous guidance provided in connection with the Eight Point Plan, which was $60m EBIT plus or minus 10pc through the cycle.