Report from BusinessDesk
Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s largest exporter of dairy products, missed its forecast with a 19 percent drop in its 2012 payout to farmers, reflecting lower prices for milk and a stronger kiwi dollar, and in spite of record production.
The Auckland-based company will make a payout of $6.40 for a full shared-up farmer made up of a farmgate milk price of $6.08 per kilogram of milk solids and a dividend of 32 cents a share. The farmgate milk price was $7.60 a kilogram a year earlier.
The payout is below the forecast range to $6.45-$6.55 Fonterra gave in May, when it revised down its estimate as global prices fell. Sales in the financial year ended July 31 fell 0.5 percent to $19.77 billion, even as volumes increased 2 percent to 3.94 million tonnes. Pretax earnings climbed 9 percent while net profit fell 19 percent to $624 million, mainly reflecting year-earlier tax credits of $202 million.
“All around the world we saw record dairy production, which was mirrored back here in New Zealand,” said outgoing chairman Henry van der Heyden. “Global dairy demand held up reasonably well but this ocean of milk obviously impacted on global commodity prices.”
Based on auctions on the GlobalDairyTrade platform, prices of dairy products sank to a 34-month low in May, though there have been gains in the past four fortnightly sales. Today Fonterra said some recovery had been expected in prices and was “partly offset by further appreciation of the New Zealand dollar.”
Farmers enjoyed record production last season, because of favourable growing conditions, and increased volumes helped soften the impact of weaker prices. The company refrained from updating its forecasts for 2013, saying it is in an information blackout period in the lead up to the release of its prospectus for the Trading Among Farmers scheme.
Fonterra towers over other corporates in New Zealand, generating almost four times more revenue than Telecom, the nation’s largest listed company, with about $4.5 billion of sales last year. Dairy products are New Zealand’s biggest export.
Its NZ Milk Products unit lifted sales by 1 percent to $15.7 billion, while normalized earnings gained 23 percent to $515 million. The Australia-New Zealand business, which handles its consumer brands, reported a 20 percent decline in normalized earnings to $204 million, which Fonterra said reflected a challenging market in Australia, in the face of “a continued downturn in consumer spending and aggressive competition.”
Normalised earnings for Asia/Africa, Middle East rose 1 percent to $194 million while for Latin America earnings gained to $129 million from $119 million.