A troubled Fletcher Building unit will lose almost a $1 billion in a two-year period, the company's chief financial officer Bevan McKenzie said this morning.
Difficult construction contracts caused losses in the Buildings + Interiors division of $292m in the June 30, 2017 year but a further $660m of losses were projected in the current June, 2018 year, McKenzie said.
Sir Ralph Norris, Fletcher chairman, cited quantity surveyor estimates, which were as much as 100 percent wrong, rising building costs and the flow of communication from management to the board as just some of the reasons for losses which McKenzie said amounted to $952 million during the two years.
Fletcher Building's shares price dropped by 13.3 per cent after the stock came off a trading halt this morning and was a factor in taking the share market index down by nearly one per cent.
By 10.05 am the stock was trading at $6.74, down $1.03 from its closing price last of $7.77 last Wednesday. The NZX-50 index was down 0.58 per cent at 8055 while the rest of the market was flat. Fletcher Buildings makes up 6.2 per cent of the index.
Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, said the share price could have been much lower if the company had planned a big capital raising to rectify its debt problems, as some in the market had suggested.
"It was a good result considering it could have been much worse than that if they had had to do a dirty great big capital raising," he said.
Lister said weakness in Fletcher Building, which has a 6.2 per cent weighting on the NZX-50 index, was the main reason behind the index's near one per cent fall in the opening minutes of trade.
"Other than Fletcher Building, it was a pretty benign market, so Fletchers will be dominating that decline," he said.
The company earlier announced $660 million total losses from its Buildings and Interiors division, the resignation of chairman Sir Ralph Norris and told shareholders they will get no dividends.
Further provisional losses of $486m have been announced from the Buildings and Interiors business, "leading to a total projected loss of $660m. Fletcher Building chairman announces he will step down no later than the 2018 annual shareholders meeting. No interim dividend payment for half-year 2018," the company says.
"Following a review of projects in the Building + Interiors (B+I) business of the Construction Division, Fletcher Building today announced a further provision of $486m for project losses," the company said.
"Combined with provisions previously announced in October, as well as overheads and other costs, this leads to a projected $660 million EBIT loss for B+I in FY18.
"Earnings guidance for the Fletcher Building group excluding B+I remains $680 million to $720 million as announced in October."
Ross Taylor, chief executive, said the new provisioning was informed by a review of 16 B+I projects, accounting for approximately 90 per cent of the construction backlog, and incorporating external input from independent construction experts and KPMG.
"The provisions we have announced today are informed by a considerable amount of further project analysis, and while we continue to target agreed completion dates across the portfolio, we have factored in significant cost and timeline contingencies," Taylor said.
"Our absolute focus is finishing our remaining B+I projects within these provisions and to a high quality for our customers. To achieve this, we are refocussing the entire B+I business on project delivery only, and ceasing all bidding on vertical construction projects in New Zealand. This will allow us to direct all resources in B+I to the completion of the current book.
"While our broader construction businesses continue to benefit from favourable market conditions and strong growth, the B+I market sector remains characterised by high contract risk and low margins. Unless these dynamics change we will no longer work in this sector."
The company said projected B+I EBIT loss has resulted in a breach of Fletcher Building's financial covenants given to its commercial banking syndicate and US Private Placement noteholders. However, the strength of the broader business and the phasing of the cash impact of the B+I provisions means the Company remains well capitalised and solvent.
"In a separate statement made today Fletcher Building chairman Sir Ralph Norris confirmed he will step down as Chairman no later than the 2018 annual shareholders meeting, allowing an orderly transition to a new chairman and the completion of the board refresh process already commenced," the business said.
The business with a market capitalisation of $5.1b has already cut guidance for its full-year earnings by around $415m in a series of announcements throughout last year.
The series of downgrades were:
• In February, it lowered expectations from that division by $20m;
• In March, it downgraded operating earnings by a further $110m (operating earnings downgraded from $720m to $760m to $610m to $650m);
• In July, it cut earnings by $85m to $125m;
• In October, it cut guidance by a further $160m.