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FIRST CUT: Low hydro flows cut Meridian earnings

FIRST CUT: Low hydro flows cut Meridian earnings, dividend still rises

By Pattrick Smellie

Feb. 21 (BusinessDesk) - Meridian Energy, the renewables electricity generator and retailer, posted a 7 percent fall in first-half earnings as low inflows into its South Island hydro catchments reduced its electricity output.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and changes in fair value hedges and other significant items fell to $329 million in the six months to Dec. 31, from $354 million in the year-earlier period, the Wellington-based company said in a statement. Net profit fell 13 percent to $109 million.

Total revenue, at $1.44 billion, was 27 percent higher than restated revenues of $1.13 billion in the previous period. Operating expenses rose 43 percent to $1.11 billion.

"Despite the persistently low South Island hydro inflows which have characterised the New Zealand market over the past six months, it was pleasing to see the company has also achieved strong customer-led growth across our multiple segments and geographies," said chief executive Neal Barclay, fronting the NZX-listed, majority government-owned company's financial results for the first time since the retirement last year of Mark Binns.

The company announced a 1 percent increase in total interim dividends, at 7.82 cents per share, comprising a 5.38 cent ordinary interim dividend imputed to 88 percent of its value, and a special dividend of 2.44 cents under its capital management programme.

Today's announcement included no forward earnings guidance but announced the introduction of a new 20 percent discounted tariff for electric vehicle owners and a one year subsidy to "cover the cost of charging (an) electric car for a year".

Meridian shares last traded at $2.845, and have gained 6.8 percent over the past year.

(BusinessDesk)

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