Mirvac takes $273m residential hit

MIRVAC has set off alarm bells in the property sector after a $273.2 million write-down in its residential development business following bad weather and weak sales.

MIRVAC has set off alarm bells in the property sector after a $273.2 million write-down in its residential development business following bad weather and weak sales.

It brings the tally of write-downs for the group to $980 million over the past five years.

The cuts were made from Perth and Queensland apartment projects and land-and-house packages. The hardest hit were the Gainsborough Greens and Waterfront Newstead mixed-use projects in Queensland.

Analysts at CLSA said write-downs in residential businesses would be a "recurring theme" for this reporting season.

But the new chief executive at Mirvac, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, said the impact of the cuts was not expected to change the group's forecast for full-year earnings.

She reaffirmed that Mirvac remained on track to deliver earnings per share for the year in line with guidance at 10.7¢ to 10.8¢ and a distribution of 8.5¢ to 8.7¢ per share.

Mirvac will release its half-year results next Thursday.

Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz said the troubled projects were now considered in the "old world" at Mirvac and were up for sale.

"Some of these project decisions, you would not make today, they were made in a different part of the cycle. They are old world," she said.

"We are very focused on what we do today and how we create value for security holders. I will outline the strategy at next week's results."

The trigger for the write-downs was falling prices and sales over the past six months, including the recent spring and summer periods, showing that a recovery in the market is not likely any time soon.

Analysts said the majority of the write-downs were in the apartments sector, with the land impairment focused on one project between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

In other results, Australand reported on Thursday a 5 per cent rise in profits to $142 million for the full year.

The result was marginally ahead of expectations. Analysts said it reflected an improvement in margins in residential. Peter Zuk, of Goldman Sachs, said his earnings target was under review.

Earnings before interest and tax for the residential division were up 16 per cent, in line with guidance. Sales volumes were down, but contracts on hand rose 24 per cent.

The Australand managing director, Bob Johnston, said the full-year distribution was 21.5¢ and he forecast the same for this year.

He declined to comment if any other parties had approached Australand after the board rejected GPT's indicative offer in December for the company's commercial and industrial assets. Australand's largest shareholder, CapitaLand, has said its holding is under review.

"We rejected the proposal as it did not adequately compensate security-holders for the transaction costs, structural inefficiencies and uncertainty as to the trading value of the residential business," Mr Johnston said.

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