Vista Group International will pay a bigger maiden dividend than analysts were picking after the cinema analytics software developer's profit was bolstered by a gain on its Chinese joint venture and as underlying earnings increased 17 per cent.

The Auckland-based company will pay a final dividend of 4.61 cents per share on March 24, at the top of its policy range and more than the 4.4 cents expected by Forsyth Barr analyst Blair Galpin. Vista signalled plans to start paying dividends when reporting its 2015 result after two years of going without when the software developer raised funds and went public.

Net profit jumped to $48.6 million, or 60 cents per share, in calendar 2016, from $5.8m, or 7 cents a year earlier. That included a $41.1m gain on the sale of Vista China to a joint venture with China's Beijing Weying Technology Co (WePiao), whose backers include the Wechat/Tencent Group, which the Kiwi company expects will expand its footprint in the Chinese film-going market, which is growing at the fastest pace in the world.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose to $17.6m in 2016 from $15.1m in 2015, while revenue climbed 36 per cent to $88.6m.


"Vista Group has produced strong revenue growth, produced positive operating cash flow and maintained a strong balance sheet to provide a platform for the continued growth of Vista Group," the company said in a statement. "The underlying growth in the global film industry combined with the focus on leveraging the core strengths of Vista Group means that the outlook remains strong."

The cinema software firm has been bolting on new acquisitions since it went public in 2014 and the latest period includes purchases of a 50 per cent stake in London-based marketing firm Powster, a half-share of Dutch software developer Share Dimension, and 100 percent of New Zealand's, which provides information about movie sessions.

The accounts show those acquisitions will cost as much as $12.6m if earn-out targets are met, with Powster attracting a $9.7m price tag, Share Dimension $2.2m, and $734,000.

Vista's operating cashflow shrank to $5.4m in the year from $6.6m in 2015, and after investment and financing, it had $21.3m of cash and equivalents at year end.

The company's Vista Cinema segment generated revenue growth of more than 20 per cent, outperforming internal expectations for a third year as it added 847 cinema sites to bring the total to 5,557. It's estimated to have 38 per cent of the world's large circuit market. The Veezi software-as-a-service unit lifted contracted sites 52 per cent to 532 in the year generating annualised recurring revenue of $3.1m and plans to launch into India this year.

The Movio analytics segment increased cinema customers numbers to 50 from 37 for a 46 per cent gain in revenue, while the MACCS film distribution unit fell short of expectations with the delay of Warner Bros implementation by three months to February of this year.

The shares last traded at $5.40, and are up 5.9 per cent over the past 12 months.