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Aurizon shares shake off regulator stoush

Shares in rail operator Aurizon have lifted despite a $30 million tariff refund weighing on first-half earnings after a tussle with regulators.

Aurizon said on Monday its first half underlying net profit was down 19 per cent to $227 million, with the deadline for a judicial review of the Queensland Competition Authority’s tariff decision passing last month.

Chief executive Andrew Harding said Aurizon will, in ending its fight against the regulator, accelerate a $61 million refund to customers to compensate for higher transitional tariffs during 2017/18, with $30 million to be repaid in the first half.

The coal and bulk freight carrier said it will continue to work with stakeholders and expects to make a formal response to QCA next week.

The company’s total first-half revenue fell 7.0 per cent to $1.46 billion.

Shares in Aurizon were trading 0.23 per cent higher at $4.44 at 1400 AEDT, down from $4.69 a year ago, and about 20 per cent below a three-and-a-half year peak of $5.50 in May 2017.

Aurizon declared an interim dividend 11.4 cents per share, 70 per cent franked, which it said represented a payout of 100 per cent of the company’s underlying net profit after tax.

The interim dividend is down from 14 cents the same time last year.

Aurizon’s underlying full-year earnings guidance for non-network businesses remains between $390 million and $430 million – excluding redundancies – contingent on no other major weather impacts after the north Queensland flooding over the past month.

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