February 12, 2019 / 9:22 PM / in 2 months

UPDATE 1-SkyCity Entertainment H1 profit up about 11 pct, flags convention centre delay

(Adds details on HY earnings, convention centre delays)

Feb 13 (Reuters) - New Zealand casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group reported a 11.4 percent rise in its first-half profit on Wednesday, boosted by a favourable performance in Auckland and growth in its international business.

The company also said in a statement its board had approved an initial share buyback of NZ$50 million ($33.67 million).

Net profit after tax for the six months ended Dec. 31 was NZ$97 million compared to NZ$87 million a year ago, the company said.

SkyCity declared an interim dividend of 10 NZ cents per share, unchanged from last year.

The company said the opening of its New Zealand International Convention Centre is now expected in the second half of 2020, a further delay from the earlier announced completion period of December 2019.

The Auckland-headquartered firm added that bookings for the convention centre scheduled in 2020 are being reviewed due to completion delays.

Meanwhile, half year statutory profit came in 11.4 percent lower at NZ$82.8 million, hurt by higher operating expenses and taxes.

SkyCity said it expects to achieve around 5 percent growth in normalised group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in fiscal 2019 ending June 30.

However, the company flagged that domestic and international economic environments are becoming more challenging and added that growth rates in Auckland and international business are expected to moderate in the second half of the financial year.

$1 = 1.4850 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Mensholong Lepcha in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tom Brown

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