Troubled cattle exporter Wellard says moving away from livestock trading has brought it closer to profit, with its $9 million in first-quarter earnings nearly outpacing the total previous year after an increased focus on external shipping charters.
Newly installed chairman John Klepec told Wellard shareholders on Friday the financial year had started well despite tough market conditions.
He said first-quarter results continued the trajectory of a vastly improved 2017/18, when net losses almost halved to $36.4 million after the change in strategy.
Mr Klepec pinned the turnaround on the company’s shipping division now treating its live cattle export division as any other customer, with 70 per cent of Wellard’s shipping capacity chartered to third parties in last year, versus 15.6 per cent in 2016/2017.
‘A higher percentage expected in FY2019, and I cannot see this changing given the expected continued strong Brazil to Turkey trade volumes, and the Indonesian market remaining flat,’ Mr Klepec said.
‘In the financial year to date, every one of our vessels has been utilised either on charter or with our traded cattle, which provides more consistent and visible earnings.’
Mr Klepec said the company’s $115 million in first-quarter revenue was up 57 per cent on same time last year, with 55 per cent of the 64,000 cattle shipped from external charters.
Net loss for the first quarter of 2018/19 was $1 million.
He said Wellard’s trading focus had narrowed solely to Australian-sourced feeder and slaughter cattle for South East Asia.
Mr Klepec also weighed in on the live sheep export drama, an industry the company has itself moved away from.
He said a lack of adequate self-regulation and government processes were to blame for poor welfare.
‘It is now the pressing responsibility of all involved in the live cattle trade to complete the cultural change that is required to ensure that the live cattle trade’s social licence to operate is retained, and that the industry rebuilds its reputation as an important economic and social contributor to both Australia and to the international markets,’ he said.
Shares in Wellard jumped 25 per cent to 5.0 cents at 1415 AEDT, but were still down from 15 cents at the same time last year, and well short of the $1.35 high after the company’s December 2015 float.
Mr Klepec said the second quarter outlook was positive, with short cattle supply and increasing prices expected during the third quarter due to drought.