Trade Me lifts profit, warns of slower growth

Trade Me profit rose 4 per cent to $78.6 million, slower than the 8.4 per cent pace a year earlier. Photo / NZH
Trade Me profit rose 4 per cent to $78.6 million, slower than the 8.4 per cent pace a year earlier. Photo / NZH

Trade Me, New Zealand's largest online auction site, posted slower profit growth for 2013 and warned earnings growth would remain tepid in the coming year as it reinvests in its business.

Trade Me profit rose 4 per cent to $78.6 million in the year ended June 30, slower than the 8.4 per cent pace a year earlier, the Wellington-based company said in a statement.

Revenue rose 15 per cent to $164.1 million as classified advertising sales surged 29 per cent while fees from sales of general items rose 5 per cent. Profit was just above First NZ Capital's estimate of $77.6 million.

"We expect to grow top line revenue and bottom line earnings but these will reflect slower growth than we've recorded this year while we focus on reinvestment in the business," said chief executive Jon Macdonald.

Trade Me, which has attracted about two thirds of New Zealand's population to its online marketplace, is adding to its core auctions business to drive future growth.

The company said today it has agreed to buy online insurance comparison business LifeDirect, adding to its purchase of inventory management company Tradevine and holiday rental accommodation website Holiday Homes in the past year.

Trade Me, which was spun out of Fairfax Media in 2011 in an initial public offering, said profit growth slowed in 2013 reflecting higher interest costs following its IPO and because of a $3.3 million one-time gain the year earlier. Finance costs increased 78 perc ent to $7.2 million in 2013.

Earnings growth was likely to slow further in 2014 as the company invests in improving the performance of its general items auction unit, develops products and marketing for its classifieds section and looks to new business opportunities and revenue lines, Trade Me said.

Some 40 per cent of all visits to Trade Me are from mobile devices and the company is developing technology applications to meet the demand, the company said.

"Growth in mobile, new products in the classifieds, the migration of advertising yield online, the long-term opportunity in online retail and forays into new businesses all provide sizeable opportunities for Trade me over the coming years," Macdonald said.

The migration of online activity to mobile devices constitutes "both an opportunity and a threat to us".

The company's expenses rose 13 per cent to $40.7 million in 2013 as it took on new staff to accelerate produce development.

Trade Me will pay a dividend of 8.3 cents a share to be paid on September 24.

The shares last traded at $4.70 and have gained 19 per cent this year.

- BusinessDesk

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