Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Money Editor for NZ Herald

Stock Takes: On the Edge

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Pacific Edge chief executive  David Darling (left), senior scientist Justin Harvey and  chairman Chris Swann. Photo / APN
Pacific Edge chief executive David Darling (left), senior scientist Justin Harvey and chairman Chris Swann. Photo / APN

Pacific Edge has had a rollercoaster of a ride this week after receiving a please explain notice from the stock exchange about its recent share price decline and then an index notice to say it has made the cut to move into the NZX50.

The bladder cancer test developer was sent a price inquiry on Tuesday afternoon after its shares fell 22 per cent from $1.72 on February 10 to $1.34 as at 1.30pm on Tuesday despite no price-sensitive news being released during that period.

The company responded to say it was in compliance with the full disclosure rules but still 1.6 million shares changed hands on the day - one of its biggest days of trading in some time.

The strong trading also came within days of chief executive David Darling and chairman Christopher Swan both selling some shares in the company.

"Asking people to understand a business that is extremely novel - it's a real handful for the analysts."
Pacific Edge chief executive David Darling

Yesterday Darling said it was purely coincidental that he and Swan had sold shares around the same time.

He sold his shares to help fund an extension to a house he had just bought.

"It created so much kerfuffle." Darling said it was unfortunate and he would ensure it was managed better in the future.

As to the price query, Darling said he did not realise a company could get a "speeding ticket" for going backwards.

When he got the call from the NZX he did wonder if the trading was linked to the share sell-downs but said he really had no idea why the share price had declined so much.

A notice the following day revealed it was a third player - Masfen Securities - which had sold large chunk of shares which caused the trading spike on Tuesday.

Darling said Masfen was a charitable trust which operated independently of Pacific Edge even though Masfen has a representative on the board.

Index win

On Wednesday night Pacific Edge received the good news that it will move up into the top 50 listed companies. Funds that track the NZX50 will have until March 24 to buy shares in Pacific Edge.

Darling hopes the move into the index will also get it some analyst coverage but he said there weren't many analysts in New Zealand or globally who had a good understanding of the industry.

"Asking people to understand a business that is extremely novel - it's a real handful for the analysts."

The company plans to undertake some roadshows to help boost knowledge of it.

Darling said the week just showed the business was facing "growing pains" but said it was trying not to get distracted by it.

Pacific Edge will replace Hallenstein Glasson Holdings which has been removed from the NZX50.

Pacific Edge shares closed up 6c yesterday at $1.49.

Chorus upgrade

Chorus received some good news this week after it and Crown Fibre Holdings announced changes to make the Government's ultra-fast broadband roll-out more cost- effective, reducing some of Chorus' billion-dollar funding gap for the project.

Some analysts viewed the announcement as tinkering around the edges but Macquarie said it was enough to upgrade the stock to outperform.

"Macquarie maintained its 12-month target price on the stock of $2.20 but also said Chorus had a high risk and was "not for the faint-hearted".

"While these initiatives are not a silver bullet fix to funding challenges, they are a positive given the cashflow benefit for Chorus, particularly over the next few years as Chorus approaches peak gearing [FY16]," the broking firm said in a note released this week.

"It also is a positive signal from Crown Fibre Holdings, in that it is willing to work with Chorus to alleviate part of its funding challenges."

Macquarie maintained its 12-month target price on the stock of $2.20 but also said Chorus had a high risk and was "not for the faint-hearted".

Macquarie is not an outlier on the stock. According to Bloomberg, Chorus has eight buy recommendations, one hold and one sell with an average 12-month target price of $2.02.

Shares in Chorus closed up 1c yesterday at $1.65.

Handley buys in

Tech entrepreneur Derek Handley has snapped up some shares in Sky TV.

Handley, who made his money selling his mobile marketing firm Hyperfactory to US corporate Meredith Corp, joined the board of the pay-TV operator in September last year.

And now it seems he is prepared to back the company with his cash too. Handley bought 4000 shares on March 4 for $24,880 - an average per share price of $6.22. Two days after his purchase Sky shares closed on $6.40 - the highest point since November last year.

They've fallen back since then and yesterday closed on $6.35.

Council bond

Auckland Council expects fewer than 100 retail investors to sign up for its latest $200 million retail bond offer.

The council received a waiver from the NZX this week to have fewer than 500 bondholders on its register for the bond's first 12 months after listing.

"Butcher said the offers typically started with a small number of investors but then gained more as time went on. Its already listed bonds have 13,000 investors."
Tamsyn Parker

Typically any securities wanting to list on the exchange can be blocked unless they have at least 500 members of the public holding at least 25 per cent of the securities on offer or the NZX is satisfied there will be enough liquidity.

In its application the council said it only expected to attract somewhere between 20 and 100 bondholders for its latest offer.

Treasurer Mark Butcher said the waiver was common practice for fixed-interest investments. The council had already listed five bond offers and had applied for a waiver in all of them as a precautionary measure.

Butcher said the offers typically started with a small number of investors but then gained more as time went on. Its already listed bonds have 13,000 investors.

The council expected the liquidity requirements to be met within 12 to 24 months after listing.

The NZX has granted the waiver on the proviso that the council discloses the liquidity risk in its offer documents and prominently discloses the waiver, its conditions and its implications in its half-year and annual reports.

The 10-year bonds are due to list on March 26.

Growth market

The NZX hopes to start public consultation on the rules around its new growth market next week. Stock exchange boss Tim Bennett said it hoped to get some feedback on whether the rules reflected what the new market was intended to do.

The market, which the exchange hopes to launch by mid- year, is designed to attract high growth businesses worth between $10 million and $100 million.

Investors who want to take part in the market will have to register with the exchange and fill out a financial needs analysis application to certify themselves. Companies will also have much simpler listing rules and compliance.

Bennett said the market would focus on getting new companies to list rather than switching existing listed companies from the exchange's other boards.

- NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker

Money Editor for NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor. A business journalist for ten years, she has worked in the UK and NZ for the New Zealand Herald, the National Business Review and a specialist publication on investment products for financial advisors. She is passionate about helping readers learn more about to make their money work for them.

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