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Fonterra reports ’20 interim results; Normalised EBIT worth $584 million
Wednesday, 25 March, 2020, 16 : 00 PM [IST]
Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited announced its 2020 Interim Results, which showed that the co-operative’s financial performance has improved with increased underlying earnings and reduced debt. The total group’s normalised earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) was worth $584 million, up from $312 million.

The interim results can be summarised as follows:
Total group EBIT: $806 million, up from $312 million
Normalised net profit after tax: $293 million, up from $72 million
Reported net profit after tax: $501 million, up from $72 million
Free cash flow: $369 million, up from $(782) million
Net debt: $5.8 billion, down from $7.4 billion
Normalised ingredients EBIT: $441 million, down from $464 million
Normalised foodservice EBIT: $147 million, up from $61 million
Normalised consumer EBIT: $116 million, up from $67 million
Full-year forecast normalised earnings: 15-25 cent per share
Decision not to pay an interim dividend
Forecast Farmgate milk price: $7.00-$7.60 per kgMS
Forecast milk collections: 1,515 million kgMS

Miles Hurrell, the group’s chief executive officer, said, “Fonterra has built on the work done in 2019, and has continued to reset its business, introducing a new strategy, reorganising and resizing its teams so there is greater focus on customers, and at the same time, significantly lifting its financial performance.”

“We are now a very different co-operative to this time last year – we are prioritising New Zealand milk and staying focussed on what we know we are good at and what makes a difference to our farmer owners, unit holders, employees and communities,” he added.

“While there is no doubt the world is experiencing an almost unprecedented situation and response to COVID-19, I am pleased with the progress we have made so far against our four priorities for 2020. These are to hit our financial targets, reduce our environmental footprint, build a great team, and support regional New Zealand,” Hurrell stated. 

“By achieving these, we will take strides towards our long-term goals of Healthy People, Healthy Environment and Healthy Business,” he added.

Fonterra’s key financial targets for 2020 are to meet its earnings guidance of 15-25 cents per share, achieve a gross margin in excess of $3 billion, reduce debt so it is no more than 3.75 times its earnings and ensure capital expenditure is no more than $500 million.

Commenting on these targets, Hurrell stated that he was pleased with the progress and momentum Fonterra had achieved in the first six months of the financial year, but the group was now operating in a very different global context as a result of COVID-19.

“Our total group normalised earnings for the first six months of the financial year 2020 are up $272 million on last year to $584 million. We have delivered this through stable underlying earnings from our ingredients business, improving gross margins in foodservice and reducing our operating expenses,” he added.

“Our foodservice business has definitely been our stand-out performer in the first half as we have grown our sales to bakeries and coffee and tea houses across Greater China and Asia,” Hurrell stated.

“We continue to reduce our debt. We completed the sale of DFE Pharma and foodspring in the first half of the year with cash proceeds of $624 million and this has helped reduce net debt by 22 per cent or $1.6 billion, compared to this time last year,” he added.

“Our strategy and the importance we place on financial discipline means we are continuously reviewing our asset portfolio. We have completed strategic reviews on China Farms and DPA Brazil, and sales processes for both assets are well under way,” Hurrell stated.

“Through these sale processes and strategic reviews, we have gained additional information and further insights and, as a result, we have revised down the valuation of China Farms and DPA Brazil by a total of $134 million,” he added.

“We have also reduced the value of our China Farming joint venture by $65 million and we continue to look for opportunities to improve the ongoing performance of the business,” Hurrell stated.

“Our teams continue to carefully manage costs and we have reduced our operating expenditure by $140 million on the same period last year. At the same time, we are not cutting costs in areas that are aligned to our strategy and will deliver additional long-term value from our farmer owners’ milk,” he added.

“While lifting our financial performance, we have also kept sustainability and communities at our heart. Some examples include contributing around $11.1 billion to the New Zealand economy through the milk price, with farmers spending nearly half of this in their local communities; working with another 1,000 farms this year through The Co-operative Difference to put in place Farm Environment Plans and getting ready to give individualised greenhouse gas emissions reports to all supplying farms at the end of the year; making the decision to stop using coal at our Te Awamutu site next season and, by doing so reducing our total coal usage by 10 per cent, and supporting farmers and communities impacted by floods in the South Island and delivering water to help towns in drought affected North Island,” Hurrell stated.

“It gives me great pride to lead a team who genuinely care and recognise the importance of out farmers and local communities,” he added.

Despite the strong earnings performance so far this year, the Board has decided not to declare an interim dividend.

Chairman John Monaghan stated, “After considering the current uncertainty of the impact COVID-19 could have on earnings in the second half of the year, the Board has elected to not pay an interim dividend. At the end of the financial year, the Board will reassess the Co-operative’s financial position and review the decision to pay a dividend.”

Outlook for the second half
In talking about the second half of the financial year, Hurrell reaffirmed the forecast Farmgate milk price range of $7.00-$7.60 per kgMS and forecast normalised earnings guidance of 15-25 cent per share.

“Our underlying earnings are tracking well at the half year, but there is no doubt that we have a number of risks that are outside our control in the second half – in particular, the potential impact of COVID-19 on global demand, geo-political risks in key markets such as Hong Kong and Chile, and ongoing dry weather conditions here in New Zealand which could impact collections and potentially input costs. As a result, we have held our forecast earnings range at 15-25 cents per share,” he added.

“As I said a few weeks ago, we have already contracted a high percentage of this year’s milk supply. But our teams know we have to keep our foot on the pedal and navigate very carefully through the challenges we will face in the second half,” Hurrell stated.
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