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Futuris beef a cut above

THE bush has been doing it tough for so long that we tend to forget how good it can look – if you have the right produce in the paddocks.

Futuris, the rural services group headed up by Alan Newman, has turned in net profits for the year to June 30 up 25 per cent at $80 million. An abnormal loss of $5.8 million, resulting from restructuring costs, trimmed the bottom line to $74.2 million.

The record result was chalked up on a 20 per cent increase in sales revenue, which topped $5 billion for the first time.

The big push came from the beef cattle unit of Elders, which earned $44 million before tax, a rise of 160 per cent, although a change in accountancy policy was responsible for part of the gain.

It was a busy year for livestock. The division sold 2.9 million cattle, up from 2.7 million the previous year.

Herd rebuilding in Australia and the US helped boost beef prices. Wool prices were strong too, and the number of bales warehoused fell for the first time in several years, Elders sold 17.6 million sheep, up from 15.2 million.

Exports powered ahead, particularly to the main market of the Middle East. The weak Australian dollar was a help. Real estate and insurance performed well, and the Elders Rural Bank venture with Bendigo Bank has had a bright start to the current financial year.

The automotive unit, Air International, experienced a relatively flat year, held back by operational problems and costs associated with gearing up for new contracts.

The Futuris directors saw “further strong growth over the next few years, with top-line growth resulting in higher bottom-line returns, especially from 2001/2002”.

Shareholders will collect a fully franked final dividend of 4c, making a total of 8c, compared to 7.2c in the previous year adjusted for the one-for-10 bonus issue.

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