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Strong start to year for POA

By Phil Boeyen, ShareChat Business News Editor

Thursday 19th October 2000

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Ports of Auckland says it has started its new financial year with strong container growth despite flat economic conditions.

The port company's chairman, Sir Richard Carter, says following its 30% increase in after-tax profit for the 2000 year, the company was in a very strong competitive position.

"This has been borne out by the volumes and results for the first quarter of the new financial year. The general economic conditions have been flat, but the company has seen solid growth in container volumes. As of this month, container volumes are 9% higher than for the same time last year."

However Sir Richard told the company's annual general meeting that an expected slowdown in vehicle imports mean breakbulk volumes have been weaker, though the downturn is less significant because they represent one-third of total volumes.

Shareholders were told that P&O Nedlloyd's decision to bring in bigger vessels on the New Zealand trade from 2002 would have a massive impact on the country's ports, but that Auckland was on track to meet the needs of the bigger ships. POA chief executive, Geoff Vazey, says this includes spending $20 million on two new cranes.

"The new cranes will be delivered in 2002, providing Axis Fergusson with four post-Panamax cranes. Post-Panamax cranes are wider and higher than the earlier generation of container gantry cranes, and are essential for the new generation of bigger vessels."

Mr Vazey says POA's capital spending programme over the next five years also included the $100 million extension to Axis Fergusson. Some work had already started on the extension, and physical construction would start in earnest in 2002. It would take about four years to complete.

"Now that we have a definite arrival date for the first of the bigger vessels in 2002, we are able to go ahead with dredging work to deepen one of the existing Axis Fergusson berths."

Sir Richard, who is standing down as POA chairman, told the meeting that the company had had an impressive record of achievement since it was established in 1988.

"Today the company handles twice as much cargo, with half the staff and much the same assets it had 10 years ago."

The Board of Directors will appoint the new chairman at its next meeting, scheduled for November 20th.

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