Fletcher Building shares touched their lowest levels in more than five years on Wednesday after the company's first-half results, which were clouded by losses at its Building + Interiors unit.

It also showed soggy demand at its most profitable businesses over the next 12 months.

The stock recently traded down 2 per cent at $6.72, having sunk as low as $6.50 after the results.

The big one-time items including B+I operating losses of $631 million in the first half had been revealed in a profit warning last week that saw the resignation of chair Ralph Norris.

On Wednesday it reiterated guidance for full-year earnings excluding B+I of between $680m and $720m.

Building products, Fletcher’s biggest business, lifted revenue by 13 per cent to $1.25 billion although operating earnings fell 9 per cent to $118m.

Distribution, which includes the Placemakers chain, lifted revenue by 7 per cent to $1.6b and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 8 per cent to $104m.

In a presentation to investors, the company rated the 12-month market outlook for all of its businesses.

For both building products and distribution it gave the same assessment as the outlook.

In New Zealand, low growth in the residential market, flat demand in commercial and growth in infrastructure.

In Australia, it sees flat demand in residential and commercial and low growth in infrastructure for both building products and distribution.

The outlook was also low-wattage for its international division, which includes Laminex in the ANZ region, Formica in offshore markets and its steel roofing tile business.

The residential and land development division achieved ebitda growth of 57 per cent to $47m in the first half as revenue grew 45 per cent to $236m on a big uplift in sales of houses and sections.

But in assessing the market outlook it sees low growth in activity in low-density developments and zero growth in demand in high-density properties.

The loss was $273m in the six months ended December 31, from a profit of $176m a year earlier. Sales rose 6 per cent to $4.89b.

The results show a loss of $322m on an operating earnings basis, which included B+I losses, from a profit of $294m a year earlier.

Chief executive Ross Taylor said the 12-month outlook didn’t indicate he was downbeat about Fletcher’s prospects.

“Certain sectors may be at the top of the cycle but that’s not my view of the broader Fletcher Building,” he said on a conference call.

“I see strong growth opportunities within the business. Particular sectors might be challenged but other markets are picking up.”

Mr Taylor said in the statement to the NZX that outside of B+I, the broader Fletcher Building business “continues to perform to guidance”.


By Jonathan Underhill