Elders shares jump, agriculture a sweet spot for next two years

A large asset sale program slimmed it back into a pure-play agricultural company which is now thriving. Mr Allison took the top job in 2014 when he shifted from being chairman to chief executive.

Elders CEO Mark Allison says further interest rate rises will have only a limited effect on the group’s real estate division.

Elders lifted its first-half dividend to 28¢ per share, from 20¢ a year ago, as net profit after tax jumped by 34 per cent to $91.2 million for the six months ended March 31.

Mr Allison said on Monday that fertiliser prices had started to flatten out after doubling rapidly as the price of urea, a core component, soared when war started in Ukraine.

There had been widespread disruptions to contend with in supply chains, with short-term shortages of raw materials feeding into higher fertiliser prices.

“They probably have doubled in the past six months,” he said.

Mr Allison estimated about 40 per cent of the overall Elders profit improvement in the six months had stemmed from strong demand and robust trading conditions, with 60 per cent coming from strategic repositioning, astute acquisitions now paying off, and Elders winning more market share.

He said further interest rate rises would have only a limited effect on the group’s real estate division, which operates a large rural business and also in metropolitan markets.

There was still strong demand for large tracts of farmland and rural holdings, as cashed-up family offices spent up, replacing the large volume of buyers from China which had been prevalent two to three years ago.

Mr Allison said metropolitan real estate markets may be curbed to a small extent, but doubted there would be substantial fall-offs in demand, or prices.

“Our sense is there’s going to be a gentle re-alignment,” he said.

Red meat prices for the consumer in supermarkets and butchers would keep rising, and would depend on how much margin retailers, such as large supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles, wanted to take on the way through.

Shaw and Partners analyst Philip Pepe described it as a “very strong result” and has a 12-month price target of $16.50 on the stock.

Mr Pepe said the lower cash flow in the first half stemmed from an inventory build-up in anticipation of increases in winter cropping demand.

Mr Allison said he hoped new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese can secure a majority for his government because that would deliver “more certainty and more clarity” for the business community.

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