By James Wells
SYDNEY: Fisher & Paykel is forecasting flat trading in Australia for the next 12 months after reporting annual profit of $A53.9 million for the 12 months to 31 March, which was the low end of analysts’ forecasts.

Although the company expects retail sales in Australia to remain flat for the remainder of this year, Fisher & Paykel is expecting an increase in profit next year, but this is dependent on commodity prices and exchange rates, as well as the performance of the company’s strongest revenue generator – North America.

Fisher & Paykel’s profit was seen by analysts as a good result considering unit sales in the Australian market dropped by 5.8 per cent overall in the year to 31 March, which coincided with rising oil prices which have increased the price of plastics and logistics costs, as well as affecting consumer confidence with increases in petrol prices.

During the last financial year Fisher & Paykel was also forced to increase the price of its products after steel prices rose by up to 60 per cent for premium quality materials. According to Fisher & Paykel Appliances chief operating officer – Australia, Mike Church, although the company was criticised at the time, the move was justified.

“When we announced our new pricing model and had to put in a price increase there was some skepticism, but it was pleasing that margins for our customers and ourselves have benefited from the move which was a considerable learning curve for us all. We hope this showed positive leadership,” he said.

Church said to the poor trading conditions in the 2005-6 financial year were worth forgetting.

“Last year was a tough year, it is nice to see it behind us,” he told at a function held for media and financial analysts held on the seventh floor of the David Jones store in Sydney’s CBD last night.

“We are appreciative and grateful for the support received from retail partners in what are dynamic times. Our recently announced financial result for the year reflects the hard work on behalf all of the Fisher & Paykel team, but also the support from our retailers and we thank them for that.”

Church said the company’s reputation as an innovator will be maintained with new product releases progressively rolled out over the next two years.

“It is terrific to have new innovation platforms to take to market for our retailers and consumers,” Church said.

On display at the briefing last night were Fisher & Paykel’s latest innovations – the Project Luna ‘gas in glass’ cooktop with retractable burners that create a flat surface when not in use. The patented aero burners offer sparkless ignition and precise control similar to induction cooking by using the regulation of air flow using variable speed fans.

Also on display was Fisher & Paykel’s bottom mount ice and water refrigerator with an internal ice dispenser and a hidden chilled water dispenser.

“The ice and water offering as well as Project Luna are examples of innovation coming over the next 18 months to two years," Church said.