Key Points:

The country's biggest listed transport group, Mainfreight, said today its net profit rose 27 per cent to $25.8 million for the nine months to December 31.

A further $17.6 million of abnormal gains was added to the net surplus, as previously disclosed in the half year result, bringing the total net surplus for the period to $43.3m.

Consolidated revenues (sales) increased year on year to $741m . Excluding foreign currency conversions to New Zealand dollars that was an increase of 4 per cent, the company said today.

While the year-to-date 27 per cent net profit improvement was satisfactory overall, New Zealand's performance during the third quarter was below expectations, particularly during December.

Earnings from offshore interests continued to gain momentum and perform satisfactorily, providing half of total earnings before interest and tax (ebit).

Overall performance in January and early February was in line with the same period last year.

The ongoing strength of the offshore interests continued to fuel Mainfreight's desire for greater offshore growth, further reducing its reliance on New Zealand operations, the company said.

It continue to expect its year-end financial performance to be much improved on the previous year.

In the New Zealand domestic division revenue and ebit performance were in line with the same quarter of the previous year, while year-to-date revenues improved by 1 per cent to $206.3m and ebit improved 6 per cent to $18.7 million.

For the New Zealand international division revenues year-to-date declined 0.5 per cent to $114.8m with foreign currency conversions and fluctuating ocean freight rates contributing to flat sales, Mainfreight said.

Division ebit improved 21 per cent to $2.6m reflecting the synergies of merging Mainfreight International and Owens International, combined with a focus during the quarter on inbound freight margins.

In the Australian domestic division revenues increased 14 per cent to $97.5m, and ebit had also continued to improve, up 141 per cent to $7.9m, excluding abnormals year-to-date.

Trading continued to be strong with the new year well ahead of the previous year.

In the Australia international division revenues were maintained at last year's levels and ebit increased 18 per cent to $9.3m, despite a not unexpected declining performance in the projects division of Pan Orient.

Trading remained positive and would continue its momentum through 2007, the company said.

In the US international division year-to-date revenues improved 21 per cent, excluding foreign currency exchange, to $87.6m. Ebit for the year to date had improved 77 per cent to $3.9m.

Third quarter performance was in line with last year's as a result of increased costs from the opening of branches in Boston and San Francisco.

Group capital expenditure was $28.5m, with $23.1m spent on property development.

- NZPA