Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Brokers predict Air NZ will be high flyer

Superstar Xero a surprising omission from list for investors to add to their portfolios

Mainfreight is a popular pick for a strong performance in 2014 due to its increasing international exposure. Photo /  Sarah Ivey
Mainfreight is a popular pick for a strong performance in 2014 due to its increasing international exposure. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Air New Zealand is the most popular pick by brokers for 2014 riding on the back of strong expectations for profit growth at the national carrier.

Three out of seven brokers chose the airline, whose shares have already risen more than 25 per cent this year.

Rob Mercer, an analyst at Forsyth Barr, said Air New Zealand was heading into 2014 in great shape with earnings expected to increase from those already seen in 2013.

"Air New Zealand (is) poised to deliver several years of strong profit performance."

Mercer said the drivers behind that were improved demand, cost cutting, changes to loss-making long-haul routes and stable fuel prices.

Macquarie analyst Brad Gordon said Air New Zealand had outperformed its airline peers yet it was trading at a cheaper price.

"Air New Zealand's return on equity is around 11 per cent, Qantas is basically zero."

Gordon said that in the past Air New Zealand's value had traded at a discount because of the Government's high level of ownership.

The 20 per cent sold down by the Government in 2013 reduced the overhang issue and increased liquidity in the stock. Trade volumes had been boosted from around half a million dollars a day to around $1.5 million to $2 million.

Gordon said the nature of the New Zealand market meant Air New Zealand stood to benefit from the country's strong economic growth and flow-on effects from the Christchurch rebuild with more people travelling up and down the country.

Outside of Air New Zealand, Diligent, Chorus, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Contact Energy, Infratil and Mainfreight received two picks each.

Diligent, a software providers of corporate board documents, was a top performer in 2012 but this year it has struggled with governance issues and delays in restating its accounts. Its shares have fallen more than 25 per cent.

Gordon was not worried about Diligent having to restate its accounts.

"It's not entirely unusual for new software companies to go through restatements globally."

The big question mark was whether the issue had distracted management and impacted sales for the company. He would be looking closely at quarterly sales figures due out early next year.

Diligent was a top pick for brokers in 2013 but remarkably none of the brokers have picked Xero either this year or for 2014, despite its stellar performance.

Gordon believed that was down to a lack of understanding over Xero's valuation. "The last $15 the company put on really there has been no news. On the face of it it's the most expensive SAAS (software as a service) company on valuation."

Others have zeroed in on companies with strong global growth prospects.

Mark Lister, head of research at Craigs Investment Partners, said he picked Fisher & Paykel Healthcare because the business is growing strongly offshore and was well positioned to continue to deliver over the medium term. "If we see any currency weakness emerge, this would serve to enhance the investment proposition even more," he said.

Lister also picked Mainfreight for its increasing international exposure.

"Mainfreight has a strong brand and market position in Australasia but over recent years, an increasing portion of revenues and earnings have come from international operations including those in Europe and the US.

"A recovery in some of these regions, as well as any strength in the currency, would benefit Mainfreight."

Forsyth Barr's Mercer said he backed Mainfreight because it had a high marginal return on equity, it was beating peers on earnings growth and had a proactive executive team.

"Mainfreight has substantial global growth prospects."

Brokers top picks:

Macquarie Securities
Summerset Group
Diligent
Pumpkin Patch
Air New Zealand
Chorus

First NZ Capital
Fisher and Paykel Healthcare
Hellaby Holdings
Airwork Holdings
Z Energy
Contact Energy

Goldman Sachs
Trade Me
Tower
Air New Zealand
Infratil
Nuplex

Craigs Investment Partners
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Fletcher Building
Meridian Energy
Mainfreight
Australian Foundation Investment Company

Forsyth Barr
Air New Zealand
Contact Energy
Sky Television.
Mainfreight
Opus International Consultants

Hamilton Hindin Greene
Metlifecare
Chorus
Steel & Tube
A2 Corp
NZX

McDouall Stuart
Telecom
Diligent
Infratil
Heartland Bank
VMob

*Disclaimer - Before using the Business Herald survey to choose a broker or stocks, readers should recognise that the results are skewed by some features. The figures exclude brokers fees. Brokers are asked to choose the securities that will give the best short-term performance. If they had been asked to choose, for example, a five year term, the results might be different. The survey does not allow brokers to review choices during the year. The survey implies a one-size-fits-all approach. It takes no account of individual circumstances such as an investor's appetite for risk, need for income or tax circumstances. The views expressed do not constitute personalised financial advice and are not directed at any person. Finally, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

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