GPG reports $6m loss

23:12, Aug 14 2013
Rob Campbell
POSTED LOSS: GPG chairman Rob Campbell says the company still has five material investment assets.

Guinness Peat Group has reported a full-year loss of $6 million, reflecting a large loss at its main investment, British threadmaker Coats.

The result for the year to December 31 follows a $2m net profit the prior year.

GPG is in the process of selling off assets to return money to shareholders. It will keep the British threadmaker and plans to re-brand itself as Coats by the end of this year.

GPG booked a loss from Coats of £72 million ($NZ132m), which included the impact of a £76m European Commission fine for collusion in the fasteners market and other exceptional costs after tax of £28m.

Excluding those exceptional items Coats' net profit for GPG totalled £32m.

GPG chairman Rob Campbell said Coats' full-year sales were down 3 per cent year on year, but it had seen a recovery in the second half.

GPG shareholder funds fell NZ$330m to $852m in the year, pulling the net asset backing per share down from 74 cents to 54c.

The company, which now counts a fund controlled by billionaire George Soros as a significant shareholder, cashed in £314m worth of assets, including Australian financial services group Clearview, last year.

This year it has so far received £37m from asset sales - making a combined total since January last year of $689m.

Aside from Coats, Campbell said GPG still held five material investment assets, and it continued to work to maximise and unlock value from them.

They include insurance firm Tower - in which GPG is the single largest shareholder at 33.6 per cent ownership, Australian agrifeed and salt producer Ridley Corporation, agriculture investor PrimeAg Australia and Australian water investment and agribusiness Tandou.

The fifth material asset is a 72.8 per cent shareholding in property development company CIC Australia.

Campbell said Tower's ongoing strategic review had its full support. Tower announced yesterday it would sell its investments business for $79m, and GPG stood to gain $40m following the earlier sale of its health business.

GPG had also agreed to sell its shareholding in Tandou for proceeds of A$15m (NZ$18.6), and expected payouts from PrimeAg's sale of land and water entitlements and distribution of excess cash. GPG is undertaking a share buyback of up to $170m. As of February 22, it had bought back $67m worth of shares.

Campbell said GPG would need to retain at least $243m in asset realisation proceeds to support its three pension schemes.

The total deficit of those schemes increased 5 per cent in the year to $551m. GPG shares last traded on the NZX at 59c.