Wrightson names Agria’s Lai as chairman, forecasts lift in operating earnings

PGG Wrightson, the rural services company controlled by Agria Corp, named the Chinese company’s founder Alan Lai as its new chairman, replacing John Anderson, and forecast a lift in full-year operating earnings.

The Christchurch-based company first flagged the departure of veteran businessman Anderson last month, after he was appointed to steer the company after its 2010 shakeup that followed the arrival of Agria as an investor with fresh equity at a time profits were weak and debt was high.

Agria subsequently lifted its holding to 50.5 percent after a takeover offer that was accepted by then major shareholder Pyne Gould Corp and endorsed by Wrightson’s board. It took a $321 million charge against 2013 profit to write of goodwill and posted a decline in operating earnings that reflected last summer’s drought.

“Solid progress has been made to the foundations of this business over recent years and the challenge now was to use this strength to improve the performance of the business,” Lai said in a statement.

Anderson, in his final speech as chairman, said the company is on track to deliver operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $52 million to $56 million this financial year. That would be an increase from the $45.8 million EBITDA reported for 2013.

Shares of Wrightson last traded at 39 cents and have declined 11 percent this year.


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