Timaru's PrimePort records healthy profit increase

PrimePort chairman Roger Gower and chief executive Phil Melhopt.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

PrimePort chairman Roger Gower and chief executive Phil Melhopt.

Timaru's PrimePort has recorded an after tax profit of more than $3.5 million on the back of steady trade levels and the completion of big ticket projects.

The announcement represents a 12 per cent increase on the $3.1 million profit of 2015.

PrimePort released its annual report for 2016 on Thursday, detailing its performance during the past year and its forecast for the coming 12 months.

Container volumes, handled by Timaru Container Terminal Ltd, achieved a record volume of 84,400 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), up from 71,000 TEU the year before.

READ MORE: Holcim dome opened

Shareholders could expect to reap the benefits of the continued growth.

Chief executive Phil Melhopt said the company would pay a dividend of $1,355,200, a 3.8 per cent increase on the year before.

It will be split between the two 50 per cent shareholders, Timaru District Holdings Limited (TDHL) and Port of Tauranga (POT).

The number of employees earning more than $100,000 dropped slightly, from 15 in 2015 to 14 this year.

However, the highest salary paid by the company rose from between $210-$220,000 to between $350-360,000.

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Melhopt said the difference was a result of the last chief executive leaving part way through a year.

The report shows cargo volumes, excluding containers, increased 3 per cent from 1,295,300 tonnes to 1,335,100 tonnes.

Log exports increased 12 per cent, which helped balance decreases in stock feed imports and fuel imports.

The dairy downturn had some impact, but not as much as expected, Melhopt said.

The annual report states notwithstanding the "challenges presented by current dairy sector returns, PrimePort Timaru has performed well and the medium to long term outlook for the region's primary sector remains encouraging".

Melhopt said the opening and commissioning of the new Holcim cement dome was a personal highlight of the past 12 months.

Since the facility was commissioned, Holcim has imported 100,300 tonne of cement. Volumes were expected to reach about 350,000 tonne per year.

For chairman Roger Gower, the highlight was the culmination of the joint venture between Timaru District Holdings and PrimePort.

"We had a vision for what we wanted for the district and for the port, and it's great to see that actually happening."

Melhopt said challenges on the horizon included managing the port's infrastructure assets and making sure "we can continue to deliver high levels of service to our customers".

"That's a key focus for us."

From a trade point of view, Melhopt was forecasting very similar levels to this year.

"There are new business links that we're looking to develop as well."

He declined to comment on whether those business links were domestic or international.

Gower said he hoped to see international links advanced further between Timaru and Port of Tauranga.

"If we can get that to happen it will just take us up another level, it will transport the port and its contribution to the district, I think."

The port invested heavily in land in 2016, purchasing 2.1 hectares of land and buildings for $8.15 million in March.

The land is adjacent to a KiwiRail yard and is in close proximity to the wharves, the report states.

"The buildings are fully tenanted by a mix of customers with import and export connections to the port.

"While there are no immediate development plans for the land, the site offers future strategic growth opportunities."

 - Stuff

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