Stake in Lyttelton port held for now
Port Otago will hold on to a 15.48 per cent stake in Lyttelton Port of Christchurch in the shorter term given difficulties created at the Lyttelton port due to earthquakes.
The port, owned by Otago Regional Council, appears to have softened its stance about a potential sale of the stake, one day.
Up until now Port Otago has insisted that its 15.48 per cent stake in LPC is a long-term strategic stake, with chief executive Geoff Plunket affirming that view earlier this year. Port Otago built up the holding in 2006-07.
Yesterday, Port Otago chairman David Faulkner said it was not a good time to sell Lyttelton shares, given the difficulties around insurance repairs at the Canterbury port that have seen a halt to dividend flows to LPC shareholders.
Lyttelton shares yesterday afternoon were untraded and last traded at $2.09.
Asked if Port Otago was a long term holder, or a potential seller down the track, Faulkner said: "We're just waiting and seeing at the moment just what happens with Lyttelton and what comes out of the rebuild . . . really it is such a major change for Lyttelton and really it's just a wait and see, and see what happens over the next year or so."
The port was also making efforts to impress cruise ship passengers that would land at Port Chalmers for the coming 2012/13 visiting season. The company was spending up on better facilities including marquees for alighting passengers as well as providing WiFi web access, but not making the amount of capital spend public, Faulkner said.
While 83 ships had visited in the previous season, the port had bookings for 88 for 2012/13 equating to about 150,000 cruise visitors.
Lyttelton port's cruise ship facilities and ability to host the tourism boats has been hit by the 2011 earthquakes. The port has ruled out taking visits in 2012/13 and did not take any during the 2011/12 season with Akaroa Harbour providing an alternative stopover for some of the South Island ship schedules.
Port Otago reported a net profit of $12.6 million for the year to June 30, up from $9.4m in the June 2011 year. The bottomline was helped by property valuations. The port was hoping for further improvement in the bottom- line in the year ahead.
The company, which had a large property portfolio, saw a $5m downward valuation on properties in 2011 but a $7m recovery in 2012, Faulkner said.
Revenues in the June year totalled $70.4m, down from $76m in the prior fiscal year, given a drop in containers.
The port had also seen an improvement in productivity in the last year with cranes handling 33 containers an hour, up from 27.5 an hour in 2011. But handling of containers had fallen to 172,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from 221,000 in the 2011 fiscal year.
Container volumes could be helped substantially as a result of PrimePort Timaru losing its status as a stopover for Hamburg Sud and Maersk.
The Otago port had delivered a near record $11.75m dividend to the council.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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