PGG Wrightson returns to profit

PGG Wrightson, the agricultural technology and services company controlled by Singapore-based Agria, returned to profit in the first half after increases in earnings from livestock, retail and its AgriTech units.

Profit was $3.1 million in the six months ended December 31, from a loss of $5.9 million a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Earnings beat brokerage First NZ Capital's expectations of $1.8 million. Sales rose 12.5 per cent to $693.8 million.

"Operating profitability has improved as the company follows its plan which is simply to offer high quality service and products to its farmer clients throughout New Zealand, Australia and South America," said George Gould, managing director, in a statement to the NZX.

Since Agria took control of Wrightson last year the company has been streamlining its business and selling assets. Heartland New Zealand bought its finance unit for about $98.2 million.

According to today's accounts Wrightson made a $3.4 million loss on the sale of that unit. Wrightson's board didn't declare an interim dividend and hasn't made a return to shareholders since 2010. Shares in the company are up 2.6 per cent to 40 cents.

The Christchurch-based company's earnings before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) increased 55 per cent to $22 million.

The AgriTech unit, responsible for seed and grain research, reported EBITDA of $38 million from $33 million a year earlier. The retail unit, responsible for rural supplies and Fruitfed operations, increased to $17.1 million from $13.9 million. Its livestock unit jumped to $3 million from $539,000.

Earnings from 'other AgriServices', which include insurance, wool and real estate, were $1.29 million from a year-earlier loss of $1.8 million. AgriServices earnings rose to $21 million from $12.6 million.

- BusinessDesk

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