26 Feb 2014

Summerset conscious of need for careful growth

8:27 am on 26 February 2014

Summerset's purchases of five new village sites in 2013 means it will continue building new retirement units - but the retirement village operator is wary of biting off more than it can chew.

It more than doubled annual net profit for calendar year 2013, rising to $34.2 million from nearly $14.8 million the previous year.

The latest result was boosted by a $29.7 million dollar pre-tax gain on the value of its properties and a $2.5 million tax credit. Underlying profit was up 46 percent.

Chief financial officer Julian Cook, who will become chief executive in April, said his company was still looking for sites for new villages.

"Given the growth in the market, and the demographics showing there's 30-40 years of growth in this sector, we'll always be looking to add sites," he said.

However, it would be easy to over-reach, and the company was conscious of biting off more than it could chew.

"We could have grown a lot, lot faster. We certainly had the capacity in terms of land to do it and the demand to do it," Mr Cook said.

"But we're always conscious that we need to make sure that the company can handle the growth, and that we do it well."

Mr Cook said Summerset was particularly proud of being recognised as a top operator in the retirement village industry and of the training programme it had put in place for its staff.

"Our goal as a company is to be the first choice retirement village operator, not necessarily the biggest but be the one where people say 'that's the one I'd like to go to'," Mr Cook said.

"The other area we're particularly proud of is the staff side. It's a very, very important part of the business and we've spent a lot of time over the last couple of years putting in place an NZQA-accredited qualification framework to help them get qualifications.

Pay structures had been aligned with the qualifications, so that as people became more qualified they were paid more.

Summerset paid its staff more than the industry average, he said.