SkyCity Entertainment Group has prepared its business for the unpalatable prospect of more higher-level Covid-19 alert lockdowns and its boss doesn't expect a return to normal until around 2022.
"It's really only 2022 that we expect to be back under full strength," chief executive Graeme Stephens told today's virtual AGM. "We feel well-positioned to ride out what is ahead of us."
Priorities for next year were "just to stay open", he said.
"We won't be spending a lot of capital. Let's just get through this period and position ourselves for a future beyond this."
But the company had sufficient liquidity to respond to a range of bad scenarios including more Covid disruption.
International business wouldn't return to New Zealand "for at least a year" he forecast.
"I think it will be FY2022 before we have any realistic prospects of [returning to] where we were in FY19. We will not be paying an interim dividend. If we're able to stay open and trade we are anticipating a final dividend of FY21. We understand how important it is to our shareholders," Stephens told investors.
Australian directors Jennifer Owen and Bruce Carter in Adelaide and Sydney couldn't attend in person but were online.
Chairman Rob Campbell said 2019/20 was a challenging year and the company was not yet out of the pandemic economy.
Stephens recalled last year's AGM where shareholders gathered in person at the property and how well the business was going then.
"Little did we know that about a week later the convention centre would go up in fire. But that's the year we've had. It started off really well in the first quarter, we were on track for a record, but the fire came."
The fire's anniversary is next Thursday.
"We were going really well again by January/February and then we all know what happened next," Stephens said referring to the pandemic breakout and alert level 4 in late March.
That had significant operations and financial impacts, resulted in a quarter of the workforce being reduced and restructuring, including a $230 million equity raise.
"We restructured and downsized," he said thanking shareholders for the big equity raise.
SkyCity was one of the first casinos in the world to reopen and protocols from that business had been adopted by the rest of the world "so we led well". SkyCity's online business continued to trade well, he said.
Auckland performance after the second lockdown was consistent with trading during May and June under alert level 2. The cost of the lockdown had been at least $20m in Auckland, Stephens said.
"Fortunately we had things like wage subsidies to help us through," Stephens said.
Chief operating officer Michael Ahearne said during the lockdown, work continued in the new VIP areas Black and Eight above the casino and shareholders were given a look inside these limited-access areas.
"Starting to feel really comfortable the rebuild is about to commence," Stephens said of the $750m fire-hit NZ International Convention Centre. He cited the All Blacks' Experience about to open in the old SkyCity convention space beneath the SkyCity Grand.
Stephens said facial recognition systems had been implemented across all sites to minimise harm from problem gambling.
Ahearne said the launch of the online casino business had seen "tremendous progress" and that was now profitable on a monthly basis.
Fletcher Construction was making progress on the Horizon Hotel, which would open next year and the NIZCC would open late 2023, Ahearne said.
Food Republic, a new food court, and a new bar, Flare, would open in Auckland soon, he said. The All Blacks' Experience would showcase this country's most iconic brand. Weta Workshop Unleashed was "an amazing attraction", Ahearne said.
Adelaide general manager David Christian said the $300m-plus project would open next month, with the new hotel, restaurants and bars. Expanded conference facilities, a new hotel spa and international gaming salons had been developed. He called it a "gamechanger" for South Australia.
A shareholder asked why SkyCity operated its online gambling business out of Malta.
Campbell said New Zealand did not allow online casinos but he believed in the future that would be allowed. The regulatory system had not caught up with online gambling, Campbell said.