NZ’s main gateway, Auckland International Airport, lifts half-year net profit by 12 per cent to almost $NZ86m driven by a rise in passenger numbers.

Auckland International Airport has boosted first-half profit 12 per cent as new routes and increased capacity stokes passenger activity, and the hub now expects bigger annual earnings as a result.

Net profit rose to $NZ85.9 million ($A79.80 million) in the six months to December 31 from $NZ76.9mn a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement on Thursday. The earnings were in line with a forecast by First NZ Capital.

Underlying earnings, which strip out one-off charges and revaluation changes, climbed 14 per cent to $NZ86.7m. Auckland Airport raised its guidance for full-year earnings to between $NZ166m and $NZ172m, from a previous range of between $NZ160m and $NZ170m.

Chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden said the result exceeded expectations and built on the company’s recent strong performance.

“We have renewed our focus on becoming a southern hub airport for the Pacific Rim, and our focus on growing travel markets has resulted in new routes and additional seat capacity,” he said.

Last week, the airport’s shareholders approved a $NZ454m capital return via a share cancellation. The company undertook the return after several strong years left it with an inefficient mix of debt and equity.

Its aeronautical, retail and property units all experienced solid growth.

Sir Henry said the increased aeronautical income was underpinned by higher international and domestic passenger volumes and growth in car parking revenue, while the property unit delivered a solid gain in rental income.

International passenger movements rose 4.7 per cent to 4.08 million in the half, while domestic passenger movements rose 4.8 per cent to 3.52 million. Aircraft movements edged up 0.9 per cent to 78,959.

International passenger movements at the Cairns airport fell 6.9 per cent to 326,146, though domestic passenger numbers rose 4.7 per cent to 2.12 million. Mackay domestic passenger numbers were down 3.8 per cent to 582,371. The North Queensland Airports boosted net profit 19 per cent to $A11.2m.

Queenstown Airport boosted international passenger numbers by 29 per cent to 179,153 and the South Island hub lifted net profit 23 per cent to $NZ3.8m.