Genesis Energy, the country's biggest electricity retailer, increased first-half earnings 1.5 percent as it grabbed more customers in a tightly contested retail market and lifted generation volumes, but still hasn't made a decision on whether to can its Huntly power station.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and fair value movements (ebitdaf), a favoured measure by power companies, rose to $175.5 million in the six months ended Dec. 31 from $172.8 million a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. The company said it expects annual ebitdaf will be similar to the $344.8 million reported in 2015.

Revenue fell 2 percent to $1.04 billion, even as total customer customer numbers increased 1 percent to 643,721. The partially privatised power company's total generation rose 3 percent to 3,377 gigawatt hours, while the average price received dropped 14 percent to $61.78 per megawatt hour.

Forsyth Barr analyst Andrew Harvey-Green was forecasting largely flat earnings of $172.2 million on a 2.3 percent dip in sales to $1.04 billion.

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Net profit dropped 47 percent to $35.9 million, which included a $21 million fall in the fair value of the electricity company's electricity swaps and options, which it said reflected movements in the electricity price path between the dates contracts were entered into and the company's balance date.

"Despite a challenging market, our earnings proved stable through better than expected generation output, a focus on customer acquisition and simplifying online processes, while paying attention to operating expenses," chair Jenny Shipley said.

Genesis announced last year that it would close its two remaining 250 megawatt units at the old Huntly coal and gas-fired power station unless there was a substantial change in market conditions. Hailed at the time by environmental groups as the death-knell for coal-fired power generation in New Zealand, it has since become apparent that the announcement was code for Genesis only being willing to keep the units operational if market participants were willing to pay a high enough price.

Outgoing chief executive Albert Brantley said the company is still working towards a 2018 closure date, but is in "bilateral discussions with market participants about possible options for the Rankine capacity, and we will continue to evaluate commercial proposals that could deliver value to our shareholders."

The board declared an interim dividend of 8.2 cents per share, up from 8 cents a year earlier, though short of the 8.5 cents estimated by Forsyth Barr, The dividend has an April 1 record date, payable on April 15.

The shares last traded at $1.87 and have declined 3.6 percent this year. The stock is rated an average 'hold' based on five analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of $2.06.

See Genesis' latest financial results presentation here: