New Zealand’s Comvita has booked a first-half loss for fiscal 2024 as sales sank in China and North America.

The Manuka honey maker posted a net loss after tax of NZ$3.2m ($1.98m) for the six months ended 31 December 2023, compared to a profit of NZ$4.2m the year before.

Comvita marked a 7.8% drop in revenue year-on-year, reaching NZ$103m due to “weaker consumer sentiment in mainland China” and losing “some distribution with one customer” in North America.

Greater China revenue was NZ$45m, down 13%, and North America revenue was NZ$13m, a decline of 37%. Mainland China revenue for the half-year was NZ$33m, down 19% from the previous year.

Meanwhile, the ‘Rest of Asia’ segment saw revenue rise 49% to NZ$19.2m following the acquisition of Singapore’s HoneyWorld last July. Australia and New Zealand sales jumped 7% for the opening six months to NZ$19.3m, with a “strong performance in the Australia domestic market”.

CEO David Banfield said: “After three and a half years of consistent performance growing both top- and bottom-line, in line with our market guidance and strategic plan, we are disappointed in this result, which reflects current trading conditions.

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“The team and I are absolutely focused on doing everything possible to ensure a return to our track record of delivering consistent top- and bottom-line growth.”

Earlier this month, Comvita revised its full-year revenue range to between NZ$225m and $235m, compared to November guidance of NZ$245m to NZ$255m. Reported EBITDA is anticipated to be between NZ$30m and NZ$35m, down from the previous outlook of NZ$33m to NZ$38m, for the year ending 30 June 2024.

The NZX-listed business “expects a steady improvement in consumption through the second half” and has “identified NZ$8m of specific cost savings to be made in H2 FY24”.

Chairman Brett Hewlett said: “Comvita has shown agility and resolve in making appropriate adjustments in the current challenging market conditions in China. We have thoroughly reviewed our costs and planned investments and have reduced these appropriately.”

Comvita’s share price closed flat in New Zealand trading today (21 February) at NZ$1.79.

“On a more personal note, as a long-standing shareholder of more than 18 years, I can empathise with the feelings of surprise and frustration in the current share price shared with me by many of our fellow shareholders,” Hewlett added.

“I do want to reiterate that our market share and underlying performance remains positive, our prices and margin are stable and I believe that we are still on track to deliver our FY25 strategic plan once consumer confidence in China returns.”