Seven Group dives on earnings-fall forecast of 40pc

Shares in Seven Group Holdings plunged after the mining equipment and media company forecast a fall of up to 40 per cent in earnings this financial year, following a weak start to calendar 2013.

Shares in Seven Group Holdings plunged after the mining equipment and media company forecast a fall of up to 40 per cent in earnings this financial year, following a weak start to calendar 2013.

Seven Group owns the WesTrac Caterpillar dealerships in Australia and China, a 45 per cent stake in equipment hire firm Coates Hire, and a 35 per cent stake in Seven West Media.

The result was boosted by a $50 million gain on the sale of its investment in Consolidated Media Holdings last year for $491 million.

Seven West Media's free-to-air network, Channel Seven, was also allocated $13.2 million from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, to help it to acquire new equipment to move to digital news gathering.

The other free-to-air TV stations, Nine and Ten, received $14.5 million and $13.2 million each, according to a grant report from the department on June 28.

Seven Group said it was cautious about trading conditions, with WesTrac dragged down by falling commodity prices and a subdued coal sector.

"As highly publicised, 2013 was a story of two halves, with our industrial services business delivering an exceptional performance in the first half of the year, followed by a softening in the second half," new chief executive and managing director Don Voelte said.

"We are undertaking significant restructuring to address the downturn, but assuming current market [conditions] continue we expect underlying EBIT to decline between 30 and 40 per cent in 2014 from the exceptional result that was delivered in 2013."

Shares in the Kerry Stokes-chaired company fell by 7.5 per cent, or 58¢, to close at $7.12, well below analysts' average target price of $8.84, according to Bloomberg. Tuesday's slide takes the year-to-date decline to 15.7 per cent.

For the year to June 30, the company reported a 193 per cent rise in full-year profit to $486.4 million.

Revenue grew by 6 per cent to $4.75 billion, and underlying net profit was $399 million - within the forecast range provided at its half-year results.

WesTrac's second half was "expected to have lower activity levels as a result of declining commodity prices. While there has been a recovery in the iron ore price, which has improved activity from WesTrac's iron ore customers, the coal sector remain subdued, impacting the second-half result".

WesTrac China and AllightSkyes were weaker due to slowing mining and construction markets in China and a slowdown in mining in Australia. The media arm was down 9 per cent to $106 million, due to the "softer advertising market and the sale of the Consolidated Media stake". The company recorded $54.3 million in restructuring and redundancy costs in the second half.

It declared a steady 20¢ fully franked dividend.

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