Ngai Tahu boosts earnings, looks to diversify

Ngai Tahu's stake in Whale Watch Kaikoura gave an 11 per cent return in the year to June 2012. Photo / Supplied
Ngai Tahu's stake in Whale Watch Kaikoura gave an 11 per cent return in the year to June 2012. Photo / Supplied

Ngai Tahu Holdings, which manages the South Island iwi's commercial operations, boosted earnings across all of its units and is looking to ramp up its exposure in dairy.

Net profit climbed to $95.7 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from $15.9 million a year earlier, the iwi said in its annual report. Operating earnings, which strip out gains from asset sales and property values, climbed 48 per cent to $55.1 million on sales of $209.36 million.

Ngai Tahu Holdings invested $39 million in property development, $19 million in investment property mainly to do with dairy, and $22 million in the Agrodome and Rainbow Springs tourism operations.

Chairman Trevor Burt and outgoing chief executive Greg Campbell said the group is looking to diversify its assets and is looking at investment opportunities in the Canterbury rebuild and in expanding its footprint in the dairy sector after a successful conversion of three farms in Eyrewell in Canterbury.

The iwi's property unit will be "focusing on our rural investments with a view to exploring options for the ongoing growth of our dairy operations".

That comes a day after Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world's biggest dairy exporter, missed its forecast payout to farmers as a stronger kiwi dollar and lower milk prices eroded gains from record production.

Ngai Tahu Property is also looking at water resource opportunities in Canterbury, such as investment in integrated hydro and irrigation, it said.

The commercial unit made a $26.3 million distribution to Ngai Tahu Charitable Trust, up from $22.6 million a year earlier, to serve the interests of iwi members.

The iwi's property unit boosted earnings before interest and tax by 58 per cent to $38.62 million, with the sale of 223 residential sections in Christchurch's Wigram and Lincoln out of the 408 on offer.

The seafood operation increased ebit to $17.3 million from $16.7 million on the strength of sales into China, and is investigating the feasibility of commercial farming of finfish.

Ngai Tahu Tourism boosted earnings by 59 per cent to $6.5 million and is shifting its focus on attracting Asian tourists in what it sees as a tough industry.

The iwi's $120 million investment unit increased earnings to $5.4 million from $4.6 million after selling down its stake in retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare and receiving an 11 per cent return from its stake in Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon and chief executive Mike Sang said the iwi put "considerable effort into our national engagement on Treaty matters, including discussions on when and how the relativity clause will come into effect".

The clause would top up Ngai Tahu's $170 million settlement with the Crown to ensure the iwi got 16.1 per cent of all Treaty settlements as agreed, and would come into play if the Crown paid out more than $1 billion in 1994 dollar terms, or roughly $1.54 billion today using the Reserve Bank's inflation calculator.

The iwi flagged the clause as a contingent asset in its annual report, saying "based on discussions with the Crown, it is expected to be triggered within the next financial year."

The value of claims settled or that are in the pipeline tallies to about $1.79 billion.

- BusinessDesk

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