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Alexander & Baldwin doubles yearly earnings

A stagnant fourth quarter is outweighed by ocean cargo service, real estate sales and sugar operations

By Andrew Gomes

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Alexander & Baldwin Inc. profit was flat in the last three months of 2010, but bigger gains earlier in the year enabled the diversified Honolulu-based company to more than double full-year earnings.

Fourth-quarter net

$20.2 million

Year-earlier net

$20.1 million
A&B reported 2010 net income of $92.1 million, up from $44.2 million the year before. The gain came on revenue of $1.6 billion, compared with $1.4 billion in the same comparable period.

Fourth-quarter net income was $20.2 million, barely up from $20.1 million in the 2009 fourth quarter. Revenue for the same period totaled $461.4 million, up from $362.9 million.

Profits for the quarter and year were principally driven by ocean cargo service from China by subsidiary Matson Navigation Co., real estate sales and a turnaround in Maui sugar cane operations.

Stan Kuriyama, A&B president and chief executive officer, characterized last year's earnings as a rebound from 2009 and said he expects improved results this year as the economy strengthens.

"We begin 2011 with an improving economic environment in Hawaii and on the mainland," he said in a statement. "Hawaii has been led by major gains in the visitor industry, which contributed to higher employment levels and real personal income. These emerging signs of economic recovery are encouraging and provide us with greater confidence for continued improvement in 2011."

The biggest chunk of operating profit for A&B in the fourth quarter came from real estate sales that included an industrial complex in California and unimproved land on Maui.

Operating profit from property sales totaled $17.8 million, down from $20.4 million a year earlier when the company sold the Honolulu office building Pacific Guardian Tower, a California retail center and several unimproved parcels on Maui.

In A&B's real estate leasing division, fourth-quarter operating profit was lower than a year earlier -- $8.4 million compared with $10 million -- because of lower tenant rents and changes in the property portfolio from sales and acquisitions.

Average occupancy at A&B Hawaii properties in the quarter was 91 percent, down from 95 percent a year earlier. The decline was due in part to A&B's acquisition last year of a Kapolei industrial complex that is 74 percent occupied. Occupancy for A&B's mainland property portfolio was 86 percent, up from 83 percent.

At Matson, fourth-quarter operating profit was $11.6 million, down from $13.5 million a year earlier. The decrease was largely due to $19 million in start-up losses for a new China-California cargo service using leased vessels. Higher fuel costs also contributed to the reduced operating profit, A&B said.

Matson container volume to Hawaii was up 8 percent to 37,100 in the fourth quarter from 34,200 a year earlier, but the gain reflected an extra week in Matson's 2010 fiscal year.

Hawaii automobile shipments slipped in the quarter to 19,800 from 20,600 a year earlier, which A&B said was principally due to the timing of rental car replacements.

A potential big expense for Matson this year could be replacing two interisland barges, though A&B said it hasn't made a decision. The company has budgeted $45 million as a potential partial payment for the barges this year should it make the move.

A&B expects its China service to be the main driver of better Matson returns this year given that Hawaii's economy and construction industry are forecast to modestly improve.

The only A&B division to increase operating profit in the fourth quarter was agribusiness, with a $4.6 million return that compared with an $800,000 loss a year earlier. The reversal was primarily due to subsidiary Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. achieving higher production, sales and prices.

A&B projects sustained profitability from its sugar operations this year. The company also expects improved financial results to come from a deal announced in December to turn over its Kauai Coffee Co. to global premium coffee seller Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group of Italy.

The deal, which involves Massimo Zanetti buying the Kauai Coffee brand, leasing A&B's plantation and retaining all employees, is expected to close in March.






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