By Claire Reilly

SYDNEY, NSW: Fisher & Paykel held its annual shareholders meeting in Auckland yesterday, with chairman of the board Keith Turner saying the past year has been difficult, but that the company has made “considerable progress”.

“For the Appliances business, market conditions remained very difficult and we continued to experience intense competition, in particular from Asian based producers,” said Turner. “At the same time overall consumer spending has been subdued across most of our key markets.

“Despite Australia’s economic performance relative to the rest of the world, retail spending in Australia has reduced and is expected to remain subdued for some time.”

“The market conditions through the past year resulted in lower revenue and unit sales for Fisher & Paykel Appliances. However, gross margins in New Zealand dollar terms were up 2 per cent. This was very positive.”

Click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter

Turner added that the situation on the global market would continue to be a challenge to the company.

“It is our view that the very difficult global conditions will persist and that there will be no sudden recovery in consumer demand in the short term,” he said. “These are the market conditions we have to adapt to and the events of the last few weeks in both the US and Europe underline just how fragile consumer and investor confidence is.”

“The intense competition from global over-supply, combined with depressed retail spending means the Company must continue to strive for further productivity gains, improved quality and an enhanced product portfolio. In addition, we continue to refine the approach we take in our key markets.”

Despite this cautious appraisal of current retail conditions, Fisher & Paykel reported strong financial results this year. These included a $73 million reduction in net debt and a massive turnaround in group net profit from an $83.3 million loss at the end of the 2010 financial year, up to a $33.5 million profit this year.