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Ports of Tauranga profits up 22pc to record - shares hit new high

Port of Tauranga's  Sulphur Point site. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Port of Tauranga's Sulphur Point site. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Port of Tauranga, New Zealand's biggest export port, posted a record first-half profit that beat estimates as container volumes rose and it won business from strike-bound rival Ports of Auckland. The shares rose to an all-time high of $11.

Profit rose 22 per cent to $34.6 million for the six months ended December 31, the company said in a statement. That beat brokerage First NZ Capital's forecast of $33.8 million and Forsyth Barr's of $32.9 million. Sales increased 14 per cent to $105.7 million.

Total trade volumes across the port gained 9.6 per cent to 8.5 million tonnes in the first half, while container numbers increased 17 per cent to 344,081.

The shares have soared 58 per cent in the past two years as the port company cemented its place as the major departure point for bulk commodities including logs and dairy products and won an increasing share of the container trade by setting up an inland hub in south Auckland.

The port has benefited from a dispute between the Maritime Union of New Zealand and Ports of Auckland over pay, conditions and worker safety. The dispute cost Auckland contracts with shipping line Maersk and dairy exporter Fonterra Cooperative Group, who have shifted business to Tauranga.

Container traffic at the company's Auckland-based, MetroPort, rose 11 per cent and this growth expected to continue as KiwiRail has increased its train capacity to Tauranga.

"Auckland importers and exporters recognise that by using MetroPort Auckland they can transport containers to and from their market in a timely and cost-effective way," said Mark Cairns, chief executive.

The port expects to post full year profit of between $69 million and $72 million. That would better last year's $58.4 million.

Tauranga has secured six new shipping services that will generate additional container volumes. The first stage of its new Tauranga container terminal is on track for completion in 2013, while cruise ship visits for the for the 2011/2012 summer season are expected to reach 82, up from 56 visits last year.

"The growing diversity of our revenue streams, combined with our significant strategic land holdings, the strength of our balance sheet and the positive can-do culture of our staff and service providers, leave us well-placed to meet the ongoing increase in demand that we are expecting," Cairns said.

The board declared an interim dividend of 12 cents per share, up from 10 cents a year earlier. It will be paid on March 23.

- BusinessDesk

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