Ngai Tahu Holdings is looking for large investment opportunities around the country to broaden its business after making a record profit.
The business unit of the South Island iwi announced yesterday that its net profit had reached $145.9 million in the past year and says it is scoping $100 million-plus investments.
Chairman Trevor Burt said Ngai Tahu would consider a big infrastructure investment or expand its tourism portfolio. It had considered investing in the Ruataniwha irrigation scheme in Hawkes Bay before pulling out but over the past year did partner with Tainui to buy public transport firm Go Bus off a private equity firm for $170 million.
"We'd be quite happy with tourism and if there was a significant play to do we'd be a player [but] generally we're looking outside our current exposures - seafood, property and tourism - hence that investment in Go Bus," Burt said. "Adding another one of those over the next two to three years would be good. We've got our team looking at this." Earnings in the year to June 30 had been boosted by $33.3 million of earthquake insurance proceeds and a $14.8 million gain on asset sales, which included a selldown of Ryman Healthcare shares.
Ngai Tahu Holdings retains a 5.5 per cent shareholding in Ryman with a value of $235 million.
Net profit was up from $121.8 million a year earlier, the company said in its annual report. Before tribal activities, such as distributions to the iwi, Ngai Tahu's trading surplus more than doubled to $161.4 million, with underlying earnings rising 48 per cent to $88.3 million. Revenue gained 38 per cent to $319.8 million.
Shareholder equity increased $250 million for the year to $987.8 million and Te Runanga Group equity - which includes seafood quota managed by Ngai Tahu Holdings - now exceeds $1 billion.
The chairman of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, Sir Mark Solomon, said distribution to iwi and tribal programmes rose from $28.25 million to $31.36 million in the past year.
"We expect it will continue to keep rising steadily."
Burt said the key to the strong result was diversity.
Earnings were boosted in sectors ranging from seafood with strong crayfish sales in China to tourism, where Ngai Tahu's jetboat businesses had performed well with some help from the royals.
In April Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, went for a Shotover Jet trip which Burt said had attracted interest.
"I think in terms of PR certainly very positive but I certainly couldn't quantify that."
Visitor numbers on the Dart River jetboat trip were also up sharply.
The iwi's Franz Josef business suffered a setback with the retreat of the glacier. Walking access is no longer an option and visitors are now being flown to the top of the glacier by helicopter.
Ngai Tahu had also had to write down the value of its Rainbow Springs business in Rotorua as it struggled to ramp up after a major overhaul.
Despite some uncertainty in the global economy, the forecast for the tourism industry remained positive with growth expected in the coming years.
"Our focus therefore, will be on ensuring, that across the group, we are well positioned to maximise gains to be made from a more positive market while continuing to deliver outstanding customer experiences."
Ngai Tahu Property's operating earnings were up from $38.2 million to $63.35 million, which included new dairy conversions.
Dairy was part of the farming mix, Burt said, and he was not worried about the downturn in global dairy prices.
"Again it comes back to the theme of having a diversified portfolio. Dairy will come back, we regard that as a long-term play."
Seafood makes up 12 per cent of equity, and earnings before interest and tax rose for the fifth straight year to $19.3 million.
Demand for live crayfish in China fluctuated throughout the year but remained generally strong. Apart from quota around the South Island, Ngai Tahu had during the past three years also invested in South Australian quota, and was exporting live lobsters to China from Australia.
Paua sales dipped in China due to a national cutback on spending for Chinese government officials.