March 25 (Reuters) - Fletcher Building suspended its share buyback program and scrapped its interim dividend on Wednesday, as New Zealand’s biggest building firm grapples with the impact of strict government measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The company also paused the sale process for its Australian concrete business Rocla, with Fletcher focusing on liquidity in what the Auckland-based company said is “likely to be a challenging trading period for an unknown duration.”
The New Zealand government has urged everyone to reduce contact to a bare minimum and imposed self-isolation for everyone as the number of coronavirus cases crossed 100 on Tuesday.
All non-essential services, schools and offices will be shut for a month from midnight on Wednesday.
“It is now clear that COVID-19 and the significant escalation of government protection measures in New Zealand and Australia will have a material impact on our operations and our FY20 financial results,” Chief Executive Officer Ross Taylor said in a statement.
Fletcher was slated to pay an interim dividend of 11 New Zealand cents per share in April, and had forecast earnings before interest and tax for fiscal 2020 between NZ$515 million and NZ$565 million ($299 million-$328 million).
The company had announced an on-market share repurchase for up to NZ$300 million last September, of which NZ$141 million worth of shares have been bought so far.
$1 = 1.7229 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila