EziBuy tipped to kick off round of floats

By Richard Inder

Direct mail fashion retailer EziBuy, fronted by Bridie Carter of the hit television series McLeod's Daughters, is lining up with Vehicle Testing New Zealand and hire company Hirepool for a float on the NZX.

The wildly successful float of Rakon - which surged 43 per cent after listing last week, from $1.60 to $2.29 - has boosted investor appetite for floats.

Meanwhile, a flood of cash is looking for a home in the wake of takeovers of companies such as Carter Holt Harvey and Waste Management.

EziBuy, which is backed by private equity investor Direct Capital, former brewing magnate Douglas Myers, the ACC as well as the founding Gillespie family, is eyeing a float in the long term, people close to the company say.

The company reportedly has sales of about $150 million and employs 700 to 800 people.

It is not immediately clear why it is considering expansion, although sources say brothers Peter and Gerard Gillespie, who founded the business in 1978, may be looking to exit.

The company has just invested several million dollars in the new state-of-the-art distribution centre in Palmerston North. It has also moved its corporate, finance and marketing functions to Auckland, potentially indicating an increased emphasis on the company's Australian business.

EziBuy expanded across the Tasman in 2001 when it acquired the database of retailer Coles Myer.

It now delivers some 900 parcels around Australasia daily and its products include women's fashions, menswear, children's clothing and homewares. It has five retail outlets here and an online site in Australia.

Vehicle Testing New Zealand is aiming for a flotation later this year. It is owned by the Motor Trade Association and has more than 60 stations nationwide offering warrant of fitness checks, pre-purchase inspections and vehicle registration.

The association acquired the former state-owned enterprise for $19.2 million in 1999 and since then it has bought rival On Road New Zealand. Its disposal could require the approval of its 4000 members.

It is not clear why MTA is selling.

Hire equipment chain Hirepool confirmed earlier this month that it will look at a flotation, potentially worth as much as $200 million. A decision to float or sell the business privately could be made within the next two to three months.

Goldman Sachs JBWere's Hauraki Private Equity No 1 Fund owns 51 per cent of Hirepool. Other shareholders include transport operator Mainfreight and managing director Tenby Powell and his wife, Sharon Hunter.

The consortium bought Hirepool from transport group Owens for $46.6 million three years ago. Since then, its earnings have more than doubled.

Powell wants to retain his stake.

"It's all about who [takes control]," he said. "I would have to make a decision as to whether I wanted to work with that party and they need to share ethics and values similar to what we've got at Hirepool and ... similar to the relationship we've got with Goldman Sachs JBWere. "

An information memorandum is expected to be put before buyers at the end of this month.

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