A&B’s agribusiness sector recovers but shipping down – Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor’s Information – The Maui News

Although its agribusiness sector continued its recovery in the first quarter, Alexander & Baldwin’s usual profit center, Matson Navigation Co., lost money, and the company reported a thin profit of $5.2 million, or 12 cents per share, Tuesday.

President Stanley Kuriyama said Matson couldn’t adjust its fuel surcharges fast enough to keep up with soaring oil prices.

Agribusiness, primarily Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., had an operating profit of $2.6 million, compared with a loss of $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2010.

It is difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter results for HC&S, since in the first quarter of 2010 the Puunene mill shut down for an extended overhaul and harvesting did not begin until the second quarter. But Kuriyama pointed out that the company’s agriculture operation has now experienced four straight quarters of profitability, following years of serious losses.

It is also difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter changes at Matson, because it signed a significant connecting carrier agreement with a large international carrier and opened a second service to China. Both increased business, but the startup costs for the second “string” of voyages to China resulted in a loss.

Hawaii container traffic was up to 34,000, from 31,400 the year before, partly indicating expansion in the island economy.

Auto shipments were way down, from 21,800 to 17,900, but the company said that was largely because car rental companies adjusted their replacement schedules.

Real estate, both leasing and sales, improved. The Hawaii occupancy rate declined from 94 percent to 90 percent, but again this decline could be accounted for by a change in background conditions. Since last year, the company purchased the Komohana Industrial Park on Oahu, which boosted island leasable real estate from 1.1 million square feet to 1.5 million, but decreased occupancy because the existing park was only 75 percent occupied.

Although net profit declined from the $17.3 million, or 42 cents per share, of January to March 2010, total revenue jumped $62.5 million to $405.6 million.

A good part of that increase in revenue came from Matson’s expansion of business, but some amounted to a pass-through of world oil prices.

* Harry Eagar can be reached at heagar@mauinews.com.
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