Infratil dividend up as electricity investments, Wellington airport shine

Infrastructure investment firm Infratil lifted its first-half dividend 8.3% on the strength of its energy investments on both sides of the Tasman and a controlling stake in Wellington International Airport.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and unrealised changes in fair value (ebitdaf) gained 7% to $290.9 million in the six months ended September 30, the Wellington-based company says in a statement.

The firm reported a net loss of $16.5 million, or 2.8 cents per share, compared to a profit of $50.2 million, or 8.3 cents, a year earlier, after writing down the value of its British airports and after movements in the value of interest rate swaps and energy derivatives.

Infratil will pay an interim dividend of 3.25 cents per share, or $19 million, on December 14, up from 3 cents a year earlier.

The company held its annual ebitdaf guidance at a range of $530 million to $560 million, while trimming $10 million from its forecast operating cash flow to $250 million and $280 million. It increased forecast group investment by $175 million to $195 million, to a range of $415 million and $475 million.

Infratil Energy Australia was the biggest gainer for the group, increasing ebitdaf 54% to $71.2 million on increased customer numbers and better gas and electricity margins. Infratil reviewed its ownership of Perth Energy in the period, and decided to stick with the status quo.

TrustPower increase ebitdaf 3% to $166.1 million and remains Infratil's biggest earner, despite shedding customers and generating less energy.

Infratil flagged the $550 million Snowton II windfarm investment as the major event in the period and anticipates the project, which is the group's biggest investment, will add annual ebitdaf of $99 million when fully commissioned.

Wellington Airport improved earnings 11% to $39.5 million, though regulatory oversight of its pricing has left the transport hub uncertain about its long-term outlook.

NZ Bus earnings shrank 9% to $21.8 million as usage slowed from the fillip of the Rugby World Cup last year and Z Energy ebitdaf more than halved to $7.9 million on falling market share.

Infratil says management reviewed a number of potential acquisitions in the period without concluding any transactions and is still trying to sell its loss-making Kent and Glasgow airports.

The company did not allude to reports that it is part of a consortium including its manager Morrison & Co and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund making a bid for Stansted airport, Britain's third-largest gateway.

Infratil paid a management fee of $10.1 million to Morrison & Co Infrastructure, up from $8.9 million a year earlier.

The shares slipped 0.2% to $2.175 in trading yesterday and have gained 16% this year. The stock is rated an average "outperform" based on six analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of $2.3175.

(BusinessDesk)

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