Transurban Group First Half Earnings Rise 48% as Toll Revenue Increases

Transurban Group, Australia’s biggest operator of toll roads, said first-half profit rose 48 percent and it’s on the lookout for assets in the U.S. and Australia.

Net income was A$74.7 million ($75.6 million) in the six months ended Dec. 31, from A$50.4 million a year earlier, the Melbourne-based company said in a statement today. Toll revenue rose 7.4 percent to A$447 million from a year ago.

Chief Executive Officer Chris Lynch is seeking to cut costs, reduce debt and increase growth, in part to justify his rejection of a A$7.2 billion takeover bid from the company’s three biggest shareholders last year. The company’s shares are 6.6 percent below the A$5.57-a-share offer, which it spurned and instead acquired the Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney.

Lynch said in a telephone interview any future purchases would have similar attributes to the Lane Cove Tunnel. “We had an opportunity there that we’d be able to generate some synergies that other buyers wouldn’t have had,” he said.

Transurban bought the Lane Cove Tunnel for A$630 million, a third of its construction and financing costs.

The shares fell 1.7 percent to A$5.20 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney.

“Watching Brief”

In the U.S., Transurban has a “watching brief” on some assets, he said. While Virginia, where the company currently owns the Pocahontas 895 and is building a lane on the Capital Beltway, will remain its focus for the next few years, it may consider other areas in the future, Lynch said.

Free cash flow, on which Transurban bases its dividend payouts, rose 17 percent to A$188 million. The company will pay out 13 Australian cents a share for the period and at least 26 cents for the full year, it said.

The company, which had two members of its executive team leave after a restructure last month, will see more employees depart, Lynch said, without specifying the number. The impact of the cuts will start to be seen in financial year 2012, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nichola Saminather in Sydney at Nsaminather1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andreea Papuc at apapuc1@bloomberg.net

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