Strong Wagyu meat sales growth has helped the big Australian Agricultural Company rein in its losses, despite a blowout in drought-related costs to $36 million.
The big beef producer and marketer has posted an underlying operating profit of $9.4m for the first six months of 2019-20, but a $14.1m statutory net loss.
The net loss was, however, about 80 per cent better than the $68.3m statutory loss posted at the same time last year.
AACo has, again, not paid a dividend and managing director, Hugh Killen, has warned despite its improving performance there is "more work to do" before shareholder dividends are likely.
The company has enjoyed its strongest half year of Wagyu meat sales figures to date, up 9.5 per cent to $102.8m, and reported a ramped up roll-out of its premium branded beef lines.
Seven up-market launches of its Westholme brand in Britain, the US, Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines contributed to a 106pc lift in the past year's Westholme sales.
Hong Kong sales were, however, notably subdued by the past five months' anti-Beijing protest action and market disruption across the island where hotel occupancy rates have slipped below 10pc.
Overall branded Wagyu sales growth had helped drive AACo to a positive first-half operating profit of $6.3m for the six months to September 30.
However, last year's decision to close the company's Livingstone meatworks and wind down its 1824 beef brand supply chain meant operating profit and cash flow were down on the same time last year.
Mr Killen said herd numbers had also been pruned back notably because of the drought, with the company's Barkly region properties now basically destocked, and culls of underperforming cows stepped up.
The focus was now on AACo's core branded Wagyu markets, particularly overseas, with Asia now representing almost 70pc of total AACo Wagyu sales - up 8pc on the same time last year.