Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ wire agency

Elders NZ moves back into profit

Unlike its Australian counterpart, the local company reports a positive financial result

Elders NZ stresses it is independent from its Aussie namesake. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Elders NZ stresses it is independent from its Aussie namesake. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rural services group Elders New Zealand has moved to distance itself from its Australian namesake, which this week reported a $505.2 million ($569.9 million) loss.

The local operation turned in a $789,000 net profit for the September year - its first profit in four years, and a $2.48 million improvement on the previous year's, driven by improved market share and higher volumes and margins from wool agency services. Last summer's drought resulted in slightly poorer performances in livestock and farm supplies.

Elders NZ managing director Stuart Chapman yesterday said the local operation, which he along with Eric Spencer own in a 50/50 standalone joint venture with Elders, turned in a trading profit of over $1 million, before a $150,000 writedown.

"The important thing is that we have a solid business and we are continuing to grow, day-by-day," Chapman said.

Commenting on the loss in Elders Australia's annual report, chairman Mark Allison said: "While the total loss for abnormal and non-recurring items is the largest yet, it also marks the near completion of what has been a five-year process of rationalisation and restructuring of assets, operations, finances and carrying values."

The loss arose from an underlying loss of $71 million and a $49.8 million loss from non-recurring operations.

Chapman said some of the bad press arising from Elders Australia's troubles had "drifted" across the Tasman.

"Some of that drifts across here and some people take note of it, but the majority of farmers know that we are a joint venture business and that we operate autonomously here," he said.

Up until 1992, Elders in New Zealand was wholly owned by Elders Australia, under the regime of John Elliott.

From 1993 to 2006 the operation was 100 per cent owned by Chapman and Elliott until Elders bought back 50 per cent to gain access to New Zealand wool and livestock markets.

While Elders NZ has come through the year in the black, it has undergone a series of writedowns over recent years.

"I guess in hindsight we should have taken one big blow and moved on but we decided to cushion it out as well as we could - so that's been one of our issues," Chapman said.

The writedowns mostly arose from the carrying values of the business associated with the past acquisitions.

Chapman said the outlook for 2014 was positive, with dairy prices expected to remain strong, but he said increased rural debt, particularly in dairy, was a concern.

- NZ Herald

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