Written on the 24 August 2016 by Nick Nichols

HIGHER margins amid robust market conditions have helped Brisbane-based residential property developer Sunland Group beat forecasts to post a $31.5 million profit in FY16.

The result, the best for Sunland since 2008, has come despite a 10.5 per cent fall in revenue to $258.6 million.

It was enough to drive the company's shares almost 10 per cent higher to $1.65 with the company highlighting the release of a raft of new projects in FY16 and FY17 to maintain the momentum.

Ahead of today's earnings announcement, Sunland had targeted a net profit of up to $29 million.

Sunland, which is developing the Abian luxury residential tower in Brisbane's CBD, launched 10 new projects during FY16, including Shea Residences in Brisbane, Magnoli Residences in Palm Beach and The Heights, a major master-planned residential project at Pimpama.

Managing director Sahba Abedian says the company is keen to capitalise on south-east Queensland residential markets, with Brisbane and Gold Coast accounting for $32 million of the $41.2m in new site acquisitions during the year.

Buyer demand in these markets has helped deliver improved margins from a range of projects.

"The strategic portfolio replenishment and capital management efforts of recent years have continued to deliver favourable results for the group, enabling the portfolio to benefit from the value uplift resulting from buyer demand along the eastern seaboard," Abedian says. 

"These projects contributed to a total development return of 35 per cent across the portfolio, significantly higher than our targeted return on cost of 20 per cent."

The result was also boosted by contributions from retail assets and from a sevenfold increase in project services revenue.

Sunland sold 426 properties worth $261 million in FY16, down from 754 sales valued at $509 million in FY15.

This is due to the sell-out of projects in NSW and Victoria the previous year and a lack of high rise products hitting the market.

Sunland's Abian development is still under construction with settlements from this project set to contribute to earnings in FY17 and FY18.

The company says across its project portfolio it had pre-sales at the end of June 30 this year for 779 properties worth $605 million.

A number of high rise projects are in train, including the twin-tower Grace on Coronation to be developed on the former ABC studios at Toowong. The Brisbane City Council has approved the project, but it is now subject to an appeal in the Land and Environment Court with a decision not expected until early next year.

On the Gold Coast it has launched the $82m mixed-use Marina Concourse project at Royal Pines Marina, and it is progressing plans for a high-rise at Labrador, as well as the controversial redevelopment of Mariner's Cove at The Spit which has yet to receive approval.

It also has major projects at Mermaid Waters and Palm Beach in train which will give it broader exposure to the simmering Gold Coast market.

Sunland has not issued profit guidance for the current year, although it plans to do so at the annual general meeting on November 24.

"Sunland remains in an active mode of delivery with 13 projects under construction in key markets in south-east Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne, providing earnings visibility in to the medium-term subject to sound market conditions," says Abedian.

The company currently has a development pipeline of $4.3 billion and it plans to launch another nine projects this financial year, pending approvals and market conditions.

"While record low interest rates and improved consumer sentiment continue to drive buyer demand, we are cognisant of the cyclical nature of our industry and maintain a disciplined and conservative approach to the replenishment and delivery of our portfolio," says Abedian.

Sunland is paying a final dividend of 5c a share, bringing the full-year payout to 8c.

Author: Nick Nichols





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