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AACo bottom line in the red but performance 'commendable'

Business

Beef producer Australian Agricultural Company has reported a $23.5 million first half operating profit after switching its focus to the retail market and slashing costs.

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It’s bottom line sank to a $1.6 million loss but even this was a big improvement on the same period last year when it reported a $14 million bottom line loss. The company said its operating result was a better reflection of performance.

AACo said its $15 million EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation) was driven by improvements in cattle and meat sales prices. It included a $10 million writedown in the value of livestock because of a lower expectation of calves born in the first half.

No dividends were declared and its policy on the issue when profitability resumes.

Average meat sales were up 14.5 per cent for the period compared with the same time last year, but meat production was down 9 per cent and sales overall were about $3 million lower. Its Westholme brand grew 7 per cent to now be 22 per cent of total meat sales.

Meat sales to Asia were down on last year with China the biggest issue. North American sales were up strongly but the Middle East and Australian markets were down.

Managing director Hugh Killen said the full force of COVID-19 hit the restaurant sector at the start of the company’s financial year and its 16 markets were “severely impacted”.

“However, while the interim result is commendable, we are mindful that there are many challenges still to come and a number of complexities to work through over the next six months,” Killen said.

He said the outlook was that the market would remain volatile and cited forecasts from the Meat and Livestock Association for the national cattle slaughter to fall 17 per cent in 2020 with further falls in 2021.

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