21 Feb 2017

Comvita blames bad honey crop for $7.1m half year loss

3:58 pm on 21 February 2017

The country's largest honey products maker, Comvita, is blaming its half year loss of $7.1 million on a drop in sales to China and a bad honey crop.

Comvita

Comvita's chief executive said the half year results were disappointing. Photo: Supplied

In 2015, in the six months to September, Comvita made a half year net profit of $3m on sales of $91.1m.

In its latest result, for the six months to 31 December 2016, the company lost $7.1m on sales of $57.7m.

Wet, cold and particularly windy conditions at the start of the season meant the company slashed its forecast honey production from 974 tonnes to about 380 tonnes.

Comvita chief executive Scott Coulter said the half year results were disappointing.

"We're not satisfied with the results, it's been a really tough period for Comvita. For the apiary business it's a one-off, really poor year - the results will be contained to this year.

"But for the informal market there is still a little bit of turbulence before we think it will improve."

Sales to China had been depressed, but should pick up, Mr Coulter said.

"We're seeing a re-balancing from Australasia into China and we've signalled to the market really clearly that we'll be starting a joint venture there on 1 July.

"We are expecting that the business over time will transform from informal channels to more formal ones... that's a driver from the Chinese government perspective. We feel we are well positioned once that joint venture gets going to take advantage of that change... but in the meantime it's a painful period."

The honey crop was still suffering, Mr Coulter said.

"It's got a little bit warmer, but in terms of beekeeping not much of an improvement.

"We don't know what the crop is yet, we've got to open hives and some are still out in the field. Until we know that, it's a period of uncertainty."

Mr Coulter said Comvita expected the sales for the second half of the year to rise because of growth in non-Chinese markets, improvement in Australasian sales and new sales initiatives.

Comvita will stick to its dividend payment policy of 40 to 45 percent of annual after tax operating profits and pay a dividend of two cents per share on 21 March 2017.

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