NZ's SkyCity H1 profits dips, ups dividend

WELLINGTON Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:12pm EST

WELLINGTON Feb 13 (Reuters) - New Zealand gaming company SkyCity Entertainment Ltd's first half profits fell nearly 16 percent on flat earnings, but it said on Wednesday that it was confident of a full year result to match last year.

SkyCity, which owns or has interests in three of the country's six casinos and two in Australia, reported a net profit of NZ$66.3 million ($55.7 million) for the six months to Dec. 31 compared with NZ$78.8 million last year.

The top-10 company declared a dividend of 10 cents per share, from 9 cents a year ago.

Last year's result reflected the increased revenue from the influx of visitors for the Rugby World Cup.

On a normalised basis, which smoothes out tax payments and other costs, the company reported a 3.5 percent profit fall to NZ$74.4 million.

It said it expected full year net profit to be around NZ$140 million, in line with its October guidance of a profit in the "NZ$140 millions".

Shares in SkyCity closed on Tuesday at NZ$4.00. The company's stock has risen around 6.5 percent so far this year, against a 3.8 percent in the benchmark NZSX-50 share index .

In December, it struck a deal with the South Australian state government on rules for the gaming sector and has committed to a A$300 million upgrade of its Adelaide Casino.

It has sold its stake in the Christchurch casino in exchange for taking full ownership of a Queenstown establishment.

Earlier this month it played down reports it is looking at investing in the Philippines gaming industry. A ban on new casinos in New Zealand has given the company a dominant share of the domestic market. In Australia it faces rivals such as Crown Ltd, Tabcorp Ltd. and Tattersall's Ltd..

SkyCity is the preferred developer of a proposed NZ$350 million convention centre in Auckland, but wants the government to extend its operating licence and allow it to have more gambling machines, and said it would not be involved if there is not a suitable return on the investment.

($1=NZ$1.19) (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu)