Port Otago pays $2.5 million half-year dividend

Port Otago has repeated its $2.5 million half-year dividend to 100% owner the Otago Regional Council, but issued a caution about ''mixed trading'' in the second half. Revenue for the half-year to December was up from $34.7 million to $36.6, before-tax profit up from $7.4 million to $8.4 million and after-tax profit from $5 million to $5.7 million. A $2.5 million dividend was paid, Otago regional councillors were told yesterday.

Port Otago chairman Dave Faulkner said container trade was down, from 84,000 to 80,000 TEU's (20ft equivalents), because of lower dairy volumes, while conventional cargo across its wharves was up 6%, at 673,000 tonnes, including a 15% boost in log volumes to a record 397,000 tonnes.

''This is probably the longest extended period of log exports we've seen for very many years,'' Mr Faulkner told the councillors.

Mr Faulkner said Port Otago's full-year result was ''likely to be a little down'' on the previous year, but fewer containers would be offset by more conventional cargoes.

Subsidiary Chalmers Property was likely to be ahead in its trading year results, but Mr Faulkner tempered that with the prospects of final property valuations.

''We're expecting a mixed lot, up and down [second half trading]. A similar result to last year, before property revaluations.''

Port Otago's result for the previous year to June was a $14.6 million after-tax profit, enabling it to deliver its second-highest annual dividend to the ORC of $12 million; a $7 million ordinary dividend and a special $5 million payment. Dividends paid to the ORC since 1988 now total $129.35 million.

Capital expenditure and port development for the half year was $4.5 million, including the new Vietnamese-built tug Taiaroa, which has just been launched and is on schedule for delivery in August, two straddle container cranes and paving of the log storage area in the upper harbour.

Chalmers Property purchased a $27 million Bunnings site on Auckland's North Shore, with a 15-year lease-back and another Auckland property sale reaped $400,000 profit.

Otago regional councillor Gerry Eckhoff questioned the governance and policy direction of Chalmers Property, and its role in making freehold land available for sale in Dunedin.

Mr Faulkner said its directors and chairman were those of Port Otago's board. Chalmers had had many approaches for freeholding, but he said people appeared to think the land would be cheaper than the valuations held.

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