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Australia's AWB`s net profit falls 71 pct on drought impact
Wheat marketer and rural services company AWB Ltd said first half to March net profit fell 71 pct to 11.8 mln aud as severe drought conditions across much of Australia affected its businesses.

The company, which next year will have its sole marketing rights to Australia's wheat crop overseas stripped after the finding that it bribed the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq to win wheat sales, said it expects full year net profit to be 30-40 pct below last year's 58.1 mln.

AWB chief executive Gordon Davis, appointed last year in the wake of the Iraq bribery scandal, said a culture change program is progressing well throughout the company and a new values program is being rolled out to all employees.

Davis said that the drought had adversely affected overall merchandise sales within AWB's Landmark Rural Services but there had been increased earnings within various segments.

He said fertilizer earnings were up 13 pct on the previous first half, real estate earnings had also risen 13 pct while earnings from wool handling were up 28 pct on a year earlier.

'We will continue to cut our cloth to accommodate swings in seasonal conditions,' Davis said.

'Our objective is to maintain a lower cost base and grow the company going forward.'

Yesterday, the federal government decided to permit AWB to continue marketing Australia's wheat crop under a 'single desk' system though other parties will be able to submit export bids to the federal minister for agriculture.

The government said wheat growers have until March 1 to establish a new entity to market the nation's wheat crop which must be completely separate from AWB.

AWB shareholders will receive a 0.04 aud interim dividend, down from last year's 0.16 aud interim payment.
MGR Archive 27.5.2007
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
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