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Key Strategies Outlined At Ballance AGM

29 September, 2004

Key Strategies Outlined At Ballance AGM After Strong Financial Year

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is well positioned for a strong future, based on a good 2004 financial result, shareholders were told at the co-operative’s AGM in Ashburton today (Wednesday 29 September).

The Chairman, David Graham, says key strategies implemented over the last three years have resulted in a strong balance sheet, with an equity ratio of 70 percent, and enabled the co-operative to achieve a 2004 surplus of $49.1 million.

Chief executive Larry Bilodeau says 2004 was another strong year, with the full benefit of many new business strategies yet to be felt.

“A strong 2004 result is in part due to implementing a $16 million distribution expansion strategy to deliver higher levels of service, and see Ballance take its place as New Zealand’s leading fertiliser co-operative. With new and upgraded distribution centres planned or in place throughout New Zealand, we are bringing Ballance products closer to the farm gate.

“We are also increasing the numbers of technical reps to pass on our growing know how, and developing our strong relationships with farmers and merchants. Most merchants now offer Ballance fertiliser at trade prices.

“In 2004 we took to market two products that are a direct outcome of our R&D investment. n-care, with a nitrification inhibitor is unique in that it can be spread as part of the fertiliser mix. Bioshield grass grub employs world-first technology to achieve biological control of this devastating pest. These products, and others we have in the pipeline, are the future in sustainable farming. We have seen a good uptake of these products, and as they yield results we will see demand for them increase.

“We have secured a gas contract with Contact Energy to ensure another 18 months of operation for Kapuni, our urea manufacturing plant in Taranaki. This means we will continue to produce high quality n-rich urea until at least mid-2006, giving us more time to secure long-term gas supply.”

Mr Bilodeau sounded a note of caution about fertiliser prices in the December to May period, saying there was “little likelihood of international nitrogen prices retreating from current levels. If anything, they could increase further.”

“The high international demand for nitrogen fertiliser, coupled with international shipping rates being at all time highs, is putting pressure on current prices.”

The cost of shipping raw materials to New Zealand has doubled in the past 18 months, and he saw “no relief in sight”.

In the 2005 financial year Ballance will invest a further $4 million on making manufacturing improvements to its plants, bringing the level of investment in this area to $40 million in six years. It will also invest another $9 million in expanding and improving its national network of distribution centres and consignment stores.

Based on its first quarter’s trading, Ballance Agri-Nutrients is on track to deliver a sound financial performance during the 2005 financial year.

ENDS

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