Asciano posts big jump in profit
Asciano has reported a net profit of $199 million for the six months to December, a 74.5 per cent increase from the previous corresponding period and beating analyst expectations of $171 million profit.
The ports and rail operator also declared an interim dividend of 5.25 cents per share, fully franked.
The company reported an operating revenue net of coal access of $1.74 billion, a 12 per cent increase from the same period the year before.
"We are particularly pleased with this result in light of the very soft first quarter market conditions across most of our businesses, which made forecasting customer demand and responding with the appropriate level of resources extremely challenging," Asciano's chief executive and managing director John Mullen said.
Asciano shares jumped 1.9 per cent to $5.35.
Profit growth was driven by significant growth in volumes in Asciano’s Pacific National coal haulage business due to new contracts, the company said.
Its ports business also experienced higher volumes, as activity from the resources sector rose and a record number of cars were imported, Asciano said.
The company said it expects earnings and revenue in the second half of the 2012-13 financial year to be higher than in the same period in the previous year.
Mr Mullen said that, based on the first six weeks of trading during the second half of the financial year, the group expected to report a rise in revenue and earnings before material items.
‘‘We continue to believe that, based on the long-term customer contracts that underwrite all four divisions, we will report long-term earnings growth in line with previous forecasts, albeit the mix and timing will be slightly different from original forecasts given the variable market conditionS,’’ he said.
Asciano expects its PN Coal and Bulk & Automotive Port Services businesses to continue their strong performances, driven by new contracts, stronger regional port activity and the contribution from cargo handling unit C3 Ltd.
Improvements are also expected at the PN Rail division in the second half on the back of stronger export grain volumes.
Mr Mullen said that while current market conditions made forecasting volume growth for its Terminals & Logistics division difficult, Asciano did not expect the current flat market growth to deteriorate further.
‘‘The division will continue to focus on the redevelopment of Port Botany and driving improved customer performance, productivity and cost reduction in general given the uncertain volume outlook at the current time,’’ he said.