Infratil's lower profit no surprise

Infrastructure investor Infratil yesterday reported a lower profit for the year ended March, something forecast by broking firms, given TrustPower's difficult year and the partial sale of Z Energy.

Forsyth Barr broker Suzanne Kinnaird said the only real surprise was the unexpected dividend.

Infratil will pay a final dividend of 7c per share, up from 6cps a year earlier and bringing annual payments to 10.75c.

The company reported operating earnings of $214.3 million for the period, down 6% from the $227.4 million reported in the previous corresponding period.

The before-tax profit rose 51% to $96.2 million, thanks to lower interest expense and the gain from the sale of Z and valuation adjustments.

Reported profit was almost unchanged at $69.3 million but the surplus attributable to shareholders became a loss of $31.2 million following a substantial increase in the loss allocated to the exit from its unprofitable Glasgow Prestwick and Kent airports.

However, the company reiterated earnings would grow in 2015.

Infratil's 50.4% holding in TrustPower is its biggest single investment and accounted for 55% of operating profit in the full year at $277 million, down from $295 million a year earlier.

The utility has already posted its annual results, which showed the impact of a drop in hydro generation in the face of dry weather and depressed wholesale energy prices.

The company described 2014 as ''a dynamic year'' including the successful float of Z Energy, the exit from its unprofitable Glasgow Prestwick and Kent airports and the acquisition of a 19.9% stake in retirement village operator Metlifecare.

The shares rose 1.8% to $2.33 and had gained 0.9% this year.

Ms Kinnaird said the key features of the result had been the difficult second half for most of Infratil's businesses, offset by surprisingly low corporate overheads.

''Our current target price is $2.90 cps and our rating is outperform. We expect TrustPower to be the main driver for closing the value gap, as it remains Infratil's largest investment by a significant margin,'' she said.

Guidance was for an operating profit between $530 million and $560 million next year, although the operating cash flow was expected to fall from $407 million in 2014 to between $330 million and $360 million.

The 2014 result included Z dividends.

The company also agreed to invest $A100 million ($NZ108.5 million) in the Australian Social Infrastructure Partnership.

The first $A12 million was to be made post March 31.

The company's 66%-owned Wellington International Airport provided the second-largest earnings contribution at $86 million, up from $83 million in 2013 on gains in aeronautical and passenger services income.

Earnings at Infratil Energy Australia Group (IEA) fell to $A61 million from $A80 million and the decline was inflated by the effect of translating earnings back into a strong kiwi dollar.

Infratil said it had started a review of the Lumo and Direct Connect Australia units of IEA that could take six months and would determine whether the businesses were kept as is or sold.

NZ Bus, which operated the bus services in Auckland and Wellington, reported a 9% drop in earnings to $40 million, coming in below budget, which Infratil said reflected disappointing passenger growth and engineering costs to comply with new regulations.

''Next year, it is expected New Zealand's economy will continue to drive demand for transport and energy and that there will be increasing private provision of infrastructure on both sides of the Tasman,'' the company said.

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