Maintenance affects South Port

New Zealand Aluminium Smelter is restarting the fourth potline, which has been closed for six years, following a rise in metal prices, which could mean more product handling for South Port. Photo: Gerard O'Brien

New Zealand Aluminium Smelter is restarting the fourth potline, which has been closed for six years, following a rise in metal prices, which could mean more product handling for South Port. Photo: Gerard O’BrienSouth Port at Bluff is predicting a 10% downturn in revenue for its full year ahead as it grapples with repairs and maintenance, likely to cost it $750,000 to just over $1million off its profit line.

For its half-year to December, the port posted a revenue boost to almost $21million, but that was undermined by repairs and maintenance costs to date, including the five-yearly dry-docking of the port’s tug Hauroko, which cost $838,000.

However, additional cargo across the wharves is expected from the recently opened Mataura Valley Milk plant in Gore and potentially from New Zealand Aluminium Smelter, which has reinstated a fourth production potline and accounts for about a third of cargo across the wharves.

South Port shares were unchanged yesterday at $6.50, and are up more than 8% on a year ago.

Revenue for the six months to December grew 7.4% to $20.9million, while after-tax profit declined about 7% from last year’s $4.9million, to $4.55million.

South Port chairman Rex Chapman said increased maintenance expenditure on the port’s infrastructure and floating plant would continue to have an impact on profitability for the rest of the year, but he was confident the annual 26c-per-share dividend of the past three years could be met again.

‘‘Over the coming months it is expected that there will be a number of fluctuations in each bulk cargo category; however, by year end the total volume is forecast to be in line with budgeted expectations,’’ he said in a statement.

South Port declared a fully imputed interim dividend of 7.5c per share, the same as last year.

Container volumes are tracking 10% ahead of last year and hit a record 19,800 and total cargo activity rose 1%, or 18,000 tonnes, from 1.75million tonnes last year to $1.77million tonnes.

Chief executive Nigel Gear said revenue was up by 7.4% due to a favourable cargo mix, strong performance in the warehousing division and increased marine activity.

‘‘Bulk cargoes continue to be the backbone of the business.

‘‘Volumes were comparable to the same period last year with the exception of fertiliser, down 34,000 tonnes and stock food, up 22,000 tonnes.’’

For its full-year trading, South Port issued guidance yesterday that its full-year earnings should fall in the range of $8.6million to $8.9million, down on last year’s record $9.66million profit.

While log volumes were similar to last season, Mr Gear said there had been a slowdown of exports to India and recent volumes were impacted by poor ground conditions in some Southland areas which hindered harvesting.

Those two factors were expected to result in a 10% reduction in log exports, he said.

Operational highlights for the six months included completion of Mataura Valley Milk’s infant formula plant in Gore and its initial export through Bluff on the Mediterranean Shipping Company line in November last year.

The fourth potline at New Zealand Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) was officially opened on December 6, 2018.

Once fully operational, the potline would consume an additional 60,000 tonnes of alumina and increase aluminium production by 30,000 tonnes per annum.

‘‘Over the coming year, South Port will be working with NZAS to determine whether there are additional services the port can provide to handle and/or pack any of this finished cargo into containers for export through Bluff,’’ Mr Gear said.

There was also new export of containerised medium density fibre board, which was packed at the port’s three-year-old Intermodal Freight Centre.

During the period, there was increased handling, packing and storage of meat, fish and dairy products in both the cold store and dairy warehouses, he said.

Of the dairy sector, Mr Gear said although New Zealand milk supply had increased this season, a production decline in Europe and Australia had ‘‘impacted positively’’ on Fonterra’s global dairy auction prices recently.