UPDATE: THIRTY companies have already expressed an interest in buying Elders rural services division.Despite the parent company recording a $60 million loss for the past financial year, rural services remains the jewel in the crown with a $29.5 million profit.
Releasing the company's annual report today, chief executive Malcolm Jackman said 30 companies had either rung Elders or a financial broker who is helping with the sale.
Mr Jackman said there was a "50:50 split'' between the companies coming from Australia or overseas.
He said there was a similar split in those expressing an interest between trade players and investment/private equity firms.
Mr Jackman said he hoped the division would be readied for sale by the end of the year.
"I have had some informal meetings with some of them,'' he said.
Elders has continued to pay off debt with core debt now down under $100 million, down to $96.1 million.
This year's loss compares to $400 million last year.
Mr Jackman said the company had also had "in-principle support'' from its five banks to re-finance its debt.
He said the solid performance of the rural services division came "despite unfavourably dry conditions in the last half of the year, particularly across western and southern Australia''.
He said the late dry had led to lower farm supplies demand and weaker wool and sheep prices.
"But this was more than offset by the strong performance of Elders trading operations, particularly live exports and favourable mark-to-market adjustments,'' Mr Jackman said.
Despite significantly below average rainfall in western and southern Austraila the Australian network still generated sales of $1275.3 million which is consistent with the previous years sales of $1276.5 million.
Agency operations in livestock, wool and real estate were hardest hit by the sector-wide pressures with sales revenue down 11 per cent, 9 per cent and 6 per cent respectively but farm supplies sales revenue was up 2 per cent.
Other noteworthy figures in the Elders Rural Services underlying EBIT result include:
- A 25 per cent increase in live export volumes;
- A favourable mark-to-market adjustment of $5.6 million;
- ITEMS excluded from underlying EBIT totalling $(10.9) million and relating to discontinued operations and the head office restructure announced in July; and
- A 25 per cent increase in equity earnings from Elders joint ventures.