Agribusiness specialist Crookes Brothers — which has operations spanning sugar, deciduous fruit, bananas and macadamias — declared an interim dividend of 35c per share despite profit shrivelling up due to drought. Half-year results to the end of September released on Wednesday showed a 70% drop in profit after tax to R26.4m as the drought drove down sugar cane revenue and triggered impairments in this division’s biological asset value. The dividend, declared from income reserves, is markedly lower than 2016’s 50c per share. Still, the payout, covered 1.3 times by headline earnings, is somewhat surprising considering Crookes’s conservative dividend policy. The full-year payout to end-March was covered almost 8.5 times by earnings. But the Crookes board advised against using interim results to project full-year earnings due to the effect of seasonality of crop revenues and the effect of biological asset valuations on earnings, particularly in the deciduous fruit and macadamia segments...

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