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TradeMe delivers 22cps special dividend

TradeMe delivers 22cps special dividend as revenue cracks quarter of a billion dollars

By Pattrick Smellie

Aug. 22 (BusinessDesk) - TradeMe Group is distributing $100 million via a 22 cents per share special dividend, as the online auction company announced it turned over more than $250 million for the first time to deliver a 3.9 percent increase in net profit for the year to June 30 of $96.6 million.

The chairman of the Wellington-based company, David Kirk, said the board had "determined that the best use of $100 million of capital is to pay a special dividend to shareholders", having consistently accumulated cash and reduced debt since listing on the NZX nearly seven years ago.

"After the distribution our gearing becomes similar to our Australian peers and we retain plenty of capacity to invest for growth," said Kirk, who also announced a final dividend of 10.5 cents per share, on top of the 9.1 cents per share paid as an interim dividend in March. Both the final and special dividends are fully imputed and will be paid on Sept 18. [Corrected]

TradeMe targets a ratio of 1x net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, and that ratio had fallen to 0.4x at balance date. To fund the special dividend, the company will increase its debt levels with Westpac and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The result was achieved on revenue of $250.4 million, a record, and up 6.6 percent on the year before. Ebitda rose 6.2 percent to $163.8 million compared to the previous year.

Driving both revenue and earnings was TradeMe Motors, the New Zealand category leader for online vehicle sales and now the company's largest segment.

It saw a 12.7 percent increase in revenue to $71.1 million, with a 22.5 percent increase in revenue derived from listings by vehicle dealers.

Property listings revenue rose 10.2 percent to $37.6 million, with growth of 12.9 percent in revenue from listings by real estate agencies.

Job ads rose 14.1 percent to deliver revenue for the year of $31.7 million. Revenue from its staple 'general items' category was steady, at $71.3 million, up just 1.3 percent on the year.

Headcount rose to 594 from 546, at a slowing rate over the previous year, with staff costs increasing 11.4 percent to $39.9 million. Web infrastructure costs were lower, down 2.6 percent to $5.5 million, and promotion expenses were 6.8 percent lower at $10.2 million. Capital expenditure rose 9 percent to $27.0 million, reflecting increased capitalised development costs.

Kirk also announced TradeMe had made a "small investment" in a Wellington start-up, self-service funds management website Sharesies. The size of that investment is "commercially sensitive and not material", a company spokesman said.

Looking ahead, the company expects revenue growth of between 5 percent and 8 percent in the current financial year, with ebitda showing similar growth and capex similar to last year's, at around $30 million.

TradeMe shares closed at $4.71 yesterday, having fallen 2.8 percent over the last year.



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