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The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

World Cup helps boost Auckland Airport

The arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup, such as the one from Tonga, highlighted the role of Auckland Airport in the international event. Photo / Steven McNicholl
The arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup, such as the one from Tonga, highlighted the role of Auckland Airport in the international event. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Auckland Airport is expected to deliver a solid interim result on Wednesday, boosted by strong growth in passenger numbers, particularly from Asian markets.

The listed company - which has investments in Queensland's Cairns and Mackay airports, and Queenstown Airport in New Zealand - also benefited from last year's Rugby World Cup.

"It'll be another very solid result," said Grant Williamson, a director at sharebrokers Hamilton Hindin Greene.

"Their monthly traffic numbers have been very good."

In its December traffic update, international passenger volumes rose 5.9 per cent, compared with the same month in 2010, with arrivals from China up 29.1 per cent and South Korea up 4.9 per cent.

Total international passenger volumes rose 9.3 per cent in October, and at that time the airport said Rugby World Cup-related traffic more than offset weaker New Zealand outbound travel.

Arrivals from rugby-playing nations South Africa, France and the United Kingdom rose 369 per cent, 148 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, during October.

In a research note released this month, JP Morgan analyst Carolyn Holmes was also anticipating a good interim result, reflecting strong passenger growth and airport management's focus on the bottom line.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) were expected to lift 8.4 per cent on the previous comparable period to $163.1 million, driven by an 8.4 per cent lift in revenue, Holmes said.

She expected a 4 per cent increase in reported half-year net profit to $68.1 million, and a fully imputed interim dividend of 4.25 cents a share.

The solid underlying growth in international passenger numbers reflected the airport's initiatives to encourage airlines to increase capacity on routes to Auckland, Holmes added.

"When combined with its commercial property projects, [Auckland Airport] is certainly a stock to watch," she said.

In its last full-year result, delivered in August last year, Auckland Airport boosted underlying profit by 15.1 per cent to $120.9 million.

At that time chairwoman Joan Withers said net profit, excluding one-off items, was expected to be about $130 million in the current full financial year, which ends on June 30.

JP Morgan has a December 2012 price target of $2.57 on Auckland Airport stock.

That would be a 4 per cent increase on its Friday closing price.

Holmes said key risks to the price target were weaker-than-expected passenger growth, unfavourable regulations and a slowing of New Zealand and global economic growth.

Auckland Airport shares closed up 3c at $2.47 on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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