Ryman Healthcare, the country's biggest retirement village operator and developer, lifted annual earnings 14 percent, meeting guidance, and said it expects continued growth with 16 villages in the pipeline.

Underlying profit, which excludes valuation changes in its property portfolio, rose to $203.5 million in the 12 months ended March 31 from $178.3 million a year earlier, in line with the company's forecast for earnings between $195 million to $210 million.

Ryman and other New Zealand retirement village operators are acquiring land and developing eldercare properties to meet increased demand as people born in the country's post-war era reach the target age for operators. Ryman ended the year with less than 1 percent of its portfolio available for resale, and with the occupancy rate in its care centres at 97 percent. It has 32 retirement villages across New Zealand and Australia with a further 16 villages in the pipeline which when completed will lift resident numbers by 65 percent to 17,500 across 48 villages.

"Demand for what we do is needs-based and growing," chair David Kerr said in a statement. "Our balance sheet is stronger than ever with total assets of $5.8 billion, and with 16 villages in the pipeline we have a great development runway stretching out ahead."

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Ryman added 532 units and beds over the past year, a slower pace of growth than the 781 it added the previous year. That increased its total number of retirement village units and beds to 9,781 from 9,249. Its gross development margin slipped to 19.2 percent from 23.9 percent, while its resales margin increased to 25.9 percent from 24.8 percent.

Net profit rose to $388.2 million, or 77.6 cents per share, from $356.7 million, or 71.3 cents, the company said. Profit on that measure included a $185.3 million gain on the value of its retirement village units, compared with a $184.7 million gain a year earlier, it said.

Ryman said Kevin Hickman, a co-founder of the company, is retiring from the board after more than 30 years. He will be replaced by Geoffrey Cumming, a long-term shareholder of the company and a director prior to Ryman listing on the NZX in 1999. Hickman said his family will continue to remain long-term shareholders in the company.

Ryman will pay a final dividend of 10.9 cents a share on June 22, taking the total dividend for the year to 20.4 cents, up from 17.8 cents a year earlier.

Its shares last traded at $11.24 and have gained 30 percent the past year.