27 Aug 2015

Landcorp's profits plunge by $25m

11:03 am on 27 August 2015

State-owned enterprise Landcorp has recorded $4.9 million profit for the year to the end of June 2015, down from $30 million the year before.

Landcorp said that was due to a sharp drop in the price of milk solids, combined with lower lamb prices.

Organic Jersey cow and calf on a Rongotea farm.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It said that resulted in an 11 percent drop in earnings from farm products from the previous year at $213 million.

Landcorp is the country's largest farmer, worth about $1.6 billion, with 140 farms in its portfolio.

Senior ministers said last week the Cabinet was keeping a close eye on Landcorp's financial position and its debt levels, particularly in light of the collapse of Solid Energy.

In the annual results, total liabilities stood at $361.8 million, inclusive of bank borrowings, which increased to $210.7 million from $172.4m in 2013/14.

Landcorp Chief Executive Steven Carden

Landcorp Chief Executive Steven Carden Photo: Supplied

Chief executive of Landcorp Steve Carden said the company was very comfortable with its level of debt.

"It has moderately increased over the past few years to fund dairy conversions on the central plateau and complete conversions in Canterbury, based on long-term views of dairy payout levels.

"We've kept costs flat, while continuing to work on initiatives across the five core areas of our strategy.

"Tight cost controls, precision application of fertiliser and aligning our farming systems to a lower milk price have all yielded savings. A flat cost structure is a pleasing result, given we had an additional five farms come into production during this period."

Mr Carden said Landcorp had run a conservative balance sheet, with low levels of debt relative to its assets.

"We have purposely taken a long-term outlook on our operating environment, rather than seek riskier, short-term gains."

He said taking measures such accepting a guaranteed price from Fonterra, that ended up being higher than the final price, helped buffer the impact of the dairy price drop.

Mr Carden said Landcorp's drive toward fixed price supply contacts, particularly for higher value niche products, was gaining positive traction.

"Rather than being dictated to by the fluctuations of commodity price cycles, we're locking in supply deals with partners who can help us maximise the value of what we produce.

"In the medium and long term we intend to expand our portfolio into new, high-value products.

One of those new areas, he said, was sheep milk which he said had great potential in Asian markets.

Landcorp's total assets increased to $1.77 billion in 2014/15, an increase of $26.2 million on the previous year.

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