Sanford's first half pre-tax and interest earnings fell 16 percent to $23.2 million, in part due to a lower toothfish catch from the San Aspiring that reduced revenues by $5 million. (San Aspiring pictured by captain John Bennett). Photo: Supplied

Low toothfish catch hits Sanford result, but it is less affected by Covid-19 as factories kept working in Level 4 and its high-margin strategy pays off 

Fewer bites: Fishing company Sanford has reported a fall in profit for the year due to a combination of unusually icy conditions in the Ross Sea leading to longline catch volumes of high value toothfish falling 39 percent along with softer pricing for toothfish and hoki under Covid-19 trading. Pre-tax interest and depreciation earnings fell 16 percent to $23.2 million. As a result, Sanford cut its interim dividend to 5 cents, down on the 9 cents it paid last year.

Mussel up: CFO Katherine Turner said while Covid-19 had affected operations during the latter part of the reporting period, the strategic move into value-add aquaculture businesses were starting to pay off. In particular, the greenshell mussel unit had done well, she said, showing a 13 percent revenue increase. Turner said the company has advanced its plans to build a new marine extract centre in Blenheim. Sanford shares fell 7.9 percent to $6.80.

Blame Covid: Fast food group Restaurant Brands estimates Covid-19 cost the company $15 million in lost earnings and caused revenues to plunge by nearly $45 million since March 25. While public health advocates might offset that against the positive health benefits of fewer takeaway meals, CEO Russell Creedy told the firm’s AGM he was confident sales would return to normal in the second half of the year.

Aussies not starving: By comparison, the company’s Australian operations managed to avoid the dramatic losses seen in New Zealand as most stores were able to continue trading during the lockdown period. While dine-in and take-out were closed, stores with drive-through and delivery capability stayed open. Just 14 of its 64 KFC restaurants closed during Australia’s less severe lockdown restrictions. Restaurant Brands shares closed down 0.8 percent at $12.90

Sweet deal: Honey producer Comvita is the latest listed company to seek new capital announcing a $20 million placement to institutional investors and a further $30 million from a rights issue to existing shareholders. The new shares are being offered at $2.50, a 34.4 percent discount from the last closing price of $3.81. Board chair Brett Hewlett said the money would strengthen Comvita’s balance sheet and help the business return to growing profits following a tumultuous last few years.

On the up: After a succession of bad harvests and a $7.6 million loss last financial year, Comvita has seen a dramatic turnaround in its fortunes in recent months. Its share price has more than doubled as demand for health and immunity products skyrocketed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with an 84 percent boost in production as a result of the dry summer conditions. Its shares are now up almost 18 percent from the start of calendar 2020.

Forecast lowered: Synlait Milk has lowered its forecast milk payout for the season just ending. The milk processor expects to pay $7.05 per kilogram of milk solids, down from a prior forecast of $7.25/kgMS. The final payout will be confirmed in September when the company releases its annual results.

Pandemic affect: The company is blaming an easing of dairy prices globally since its previous forecast was set in January as a result of Covid-19. Dairy prices have fallen around 14 percent since the first Global Dairy Trade auction this year. Synlait’s opening forecast for the upcoming season is $6/kgMS.

Showing promise: Fledgling probiotic company Blis Technology has delivered a strong net profit of $1.6 million for the March year, a 320 percent increase on last year’s maiden result. The improved performance was driven largely through its online expansion into North America, where revenue more than doubled from $1.2 million to $3 million along with strong sales in Europe and the Middle East.

Growing fast: Chair Tony Offen said the company’s distribution partner in North America, Stratum Nutrition, continued to expand the customer base, including sales of its ThroatHealth and Teeth&Gums products through Amazon which grew almost five-fold. The Dunedin-based company said it had now gained regulatory approvals from both the US Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada for its BLIS M18 probiotic.

Expensive payout: Timaru’s hailstorm in November was  the second most expensive weather event of the century, the Insurance Council disclosed. ICNZ members paid out $167.6 million in weather related claims last year, of which $131 million (almost 80 percent) were related to the golf ball-sized hailstorm that damaged many cars and property.

$30 million a minute: Despite the storm lasting only a matter of minutes, the payment – which equates to $2,700 for each resident in the city of 48,000 – is the most expensive weather-related event since the 2004 lower North Island storms which totalled $148.3 million.

Production slashed: Japanese car maker Nissan will slash production capacity by 20 percent, including closing a manufacturing plant in Spain, as part of a sweeping overhaul after the company revealed its first annual operating loss in more than a decade.

Post-GFC low: The company posted an operating loss of 40.5 billion yen (NZ$616 million) for its fiscal year ended in March, compared to an operating profit of 318 billion yen (NZ$4.75 billion) for its previous fiscal year. It was the company’s worst performance since 2009. The announcements come one day after Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi said they would deepen their alliance making fewer models and sharing production facilities in an attempt to cut costs.

Jobs slashed: U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing laid off of a further 6,770 workers this week as part of a plan to cut its head count by 16,000 due to the dramatic decrease in air travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the cancellation of multiple orders for new aircraft.

A third voluntary so far: A total of 5,520 Boeing employees had accepted a voluntary buyout package since early April, bringing the total jobs cut to more than 12,000 so far. The company said an additional 4,000 employees will be laid off in the coming months.

Andrew Patterson is Newsroom's Markets Editor and has worked for decades as a financial journalist, radio presenter and editor with Australia's ABC, Radio Live and NBR.

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