SkyCity a 'bystander' in smoking battle

MARIA SLADE
Last updated 14:24 13/02/2013
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Skycity Entertainment Group says it's a bystander in a legal stoush between the Cancer Society and the Ministry of Health over smoking at the Auckland casino.

The Cancer Society is taking High Court action against the ministry for allegedly getting the law wrong in allowing Skycity's smoker-friendly Diamond Lounge, where patrons can gamble and smoke in a roofed area ventilated by louvre windows.

The society says the ministry's interpretation of an open air smoking area is "a nonsense".

In announcing Skycity's half-year results today, chief executive Nigel Morrison said the casino operator was comfortable it had all the appropriate approvals and was operating within the law.

It was not unique, with hundreds of other venues relying on the same interpretation of an open air smoking area, he said.

However if it was required to change its practice it would do so, and it acknowledged that smoking generally was on the way out. "We recognise where the world's going from a smoking perspective."

Skycity announced a reported net profit of $66.3 million for the six months to December, down 15 per cent on the same time the previous year when the country played host to the Rugby World Cup.

That was off the back of reported revenue of $487.3m, down 1.3 per cent on last year.

However if greater than average losses in its international gambling business are taken out the company made a normalised net profit of $74.4m for the period, down 3.5 per cent. The win rate fluctuated over time, and just as it did not book greater than average wins "conversely when we're unlucky we prefer not to book those losses", Morrison said.

The casino and entertainment company said the RWC had boosted revenue in the first half of the 2012 year by $11.5m, and excluding that impact growth in the current year had continued across all its core businesses.

Taking the RWC benefit out, normalised revenue increased 3.8 per cent to $495.7m for the first half of the 2013 year while normalised net profit was up 2.9 per cent to $74.4m.

SkyCity remains willing to invest up to $350m in the New Zealand International Convention Centre, and following the pending release of the Auditor-General's report into the government's initial expressions of interest in the project the company hoped to re-engage with the government, it said.

However it couldn't "wait forever" for an answer, with the project costing it around $5m a year, Morrison said.

SkyCity has announced a new dividend policy which sees an increase in the dividend to a minimum of 20 cents per share per annum, and today declared an interim dividend of 10 cents in accordance with the new policy, up 11.1 per cent on the same period last year.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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