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Reviving Elders eyes overseas expansion

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Shares in Elders closed at amongst their highest since 2011 after the Australian agribusiness revealed a first-half profit for the first time in three years, and a revival in confidence sufficient to spark expansion plans abroad.

Elders shares closed up 5.4% at Aus$3.35, a level exceeded only twice since July 2011.

The rise followed the release of results showing earnings of Aus$15.9m for the October-to-March period, on revenues up 2% at Aus$645.5m.

The improvement reflected largely headway in exploiting a buoyant livestock and meat trade, driven by dryness which has spurred Australian producers to downsize herds at a time of strong global import demand.

Livestock to "remain strong"

Elders benefited from an uplift in livestock prices in the first half," said Mark Allison, the Elders chief executive.

Margin in feed and processing rose by 20% to Aus$9.6m, also helped also by the "more efficient utilisation" of its Killara feedlots and a restructure in Elders' Chinese business to focus on meat sales.

In live exports, margin soared 27% to Aus$7.4m, boosted by a drive to find new markets and customers.

And Mr Allison forecast continued firm market conditions, saying that "cattle and sheep prices are expected to remain strong, and demand for feedlot and live export continues to grow".

The Australian protein sector will be supported by "robust demand, tight supply and a low Australian dollar", Elders said, foreseeing that it would enjoy "positive operating conditions" for the rest of its financial year.

Elders eyes East-Asian expansion

Indeed, Elders said it was "actively considering" growth into the booming protein markets of South East and East Asia, as it rolls out a five-year plan aimed at continuing its recovery from the perilous position it was left in following the world economic downturn.

The group, which is 176 years old, faced lean times after the 2008 financial crisis, when it found itself with hefty liabilities and falling revenues.

The group has since undertaken a revamp which has seen it dispose of itself of a series of logistics, forestry and financial service assets, helping cut its debts, which during the period fell by 63% to Aus$86.8m.

"Opportunities for growth"

Now, Mr Allison said that Elders was "actively considering opportunities for growth across both domestic and international markets, including Indonesia, Vietnam and China".

However he stressed that the group was committed to growing in a "sustainable manner.

"Our focus remains on what we can control as a business," he said.

Elders shares have now recovered nearly seven-fold from an all-time low of Aus$0.485 reached in May 2013.


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