Key Points:

Port of Tauranga has reported a 25 per cent rise in profit for the quarter at its annual general meeting but was giving nothing away yesterday about its proposed merger with Ports of Auckland.

The plans for the merger have attracted huge interest in the media and speculation about its final ownership and shareholding structure. Analysts have speculated that valuable Ports of Auckland waterfront land was not part of the deal - and Auckland Regional Holdings would end up owning less of the new venture than Tauranga.

Port of Tauranga chairman John Parker was careful yesterday not to reveal fresh details.

Parker said the ownership of the land was still "subject to resolution" and the structure of the shareholding was yet to be decided.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said he expected the final proposal to be ready for the ports' respective boards in a month.

An economic analysis of the merger proposal had been sent to the Government, he said.

It was important that Auckland and Tauranga - the two largest container ports in the country - stopped competing and merged, Cairns said.

"Otherwise we will never achieve port efficiency in New Zealand."

Meanwhile, the port reported a 25 per cent rise in profit for the first quarter, driven by an increase in container volumes.

In the year ahead, Parker said the port expected a rise in profit due to increased exports and continued improvement in port efficiencies.

In the past year, it had achieved a 9 per cent increase in crane productivity through its container terminal, Cairns said.

"We have really looked under any stone. Any cost we can control, we have worked hard to do so. I am really proud of what the team in the container terminal are achieving."

Parker expected the port to come under ongoing pressure from high fuel prices, increasing labour costs and interest rates but thought this would be offset by growth in the container business. The softening New Zealand dollar would favour exporters, he said.

Port of Tauranga shares closed up 19c yesterday at $6.20.