Stock Takes
A closer look at the markets by Tamsyn Parker

Stock takes: Amphibians get their feet wet for Malaysia mission

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Sealegs new rescue boat.
Sealegs new rescue boat.

New Zealand, a country comprised principally of land with sea all around the edges.

Fired by this combination of surf and turf, Kiwis punch above their weight when it comes to devising vehicles that can traverse both solids and liquids.

Think Alan Gibb's English Channel-conquering sports car - the Aquada; think Adam Turnbull and Dan Melling's Cook Strait-vanquishing Toyota Townace - Roofliss; think David McKee Wright's Sealegs.

Okay, you're hardly going to see one of NZX-listed Sealegs' wheeled boats setting course for Hamilton down the Southern Motorway but the Malaysian Fire Department and its commando forces rate them, they've bought 10.

The eight "Red" fire and rescue boats and two "Grey" military boats have taken their final pre-delivery sea trials on Auckland harbour, "underlining the growing export demand for New Zealand's unique land and sea craft invention", the company says.

Chief executive McKee Wright says Sealegs are in discussions with other Malaysian government departments around further sales.

After a sales slump due to the recession, the past few months had seen "a sudden and somewhat unexpectedly rapid recovery" with orders for 18 recreational boats and four boats ordered by the Mumbai police. The company now has forward orders for 46 boats worth $5 million in revenue.

Sealegs shares rose pretty quickly in early August and touched 26c a couple of times.

Yesterday they were steady at 20c.


It has to be said Allan Hubbard's South Canterbury Finance has taken some time to reveal how it is going to extricate itself from its dire straits. With management largely avoiding the media, all kinds of rumours have been given fertile ground to flourish.

However, Stock Takes hears the new prospectus, which will allow it to begin raising cash again, and which has been expected any day for the last couple of weeks, will be out in a day or two. As it happens, South Canterbury's bonds went into a trading halt late yesterday afternoon before it announced it had reached an agreement with US investors owed US$100 million in the private placement which was a point of particular concern for ratings agency Standard & Poor's. It was "now moving to register a new prospectus".

The prospectus may be out by the time you read this. It will be accompanied or swiftly followed by the announcement of new directors, so we are told.


Amid concerns about the future of South Canterbury the yield on its NZDX-listed bonds has blown out in the last few months.

But one or two commentators have told Stock Takes retail investors are missing out on a "no brainer" investment opportunity here.

The SCF bonds that mature within the initial term of Treasury's retail deposit guarantee at 7.5 per cent are actually trading below their 8 per cent coupon. Simple enough, your money is guaranteed by the taxpayer. However our sources maintain that SCF's other two tranches, the SCF020s which mature in June 2011 and the SCF010s December 2012 are covered as long as the company does not fall over after October next year, when the guarantee is set to expire.

Matters at South Canterbury have clearly come to a head and it won't be too long before the market gets a pretty good steer on what is likely to happen.

Should the company successfully get back on an even keel, investors who bought the bonds yesterday or in recent days can sit back with a reasonable degree of comfort and enjoy the yields of 19.7 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.

Stock Takes understands at least some institutional investors and brokers are aware of this play, but they can't benefit from the guarantee which covers only retail investors.

Perhaps Stock Takes is missing something here, but on the face of it, it appears investors certainly are.


The revelation that Treasury has set aside the thick end of a billion dollars to cover payouts under the retail guarantee over the next 12 months got a little lost in what has been a big news week when it comes to the government finances and more specifically those of the ACC.

Although Treasury wasn't being too specific, Stock Takes doesn't believe it's too much of a leap to assume they're talking about finance company failures here. Treasury's use of the phrase "more likely than not" as the test under which they've set aside the cash suggests they are pretty sure either a few big ones or a lot of little ones will chuck in the towel.

As far as the big ones go, well UDC's backed by the ANZ, Marac is being recapitalised, and it looks as though Hubbard will pull the fat out of the fire for South Canterbury Finance. Stock Takes thinks Treasury is referring to the little guys.

Word is Treasury employed a number of individuals to go out and take a look at the books of the outfits covered by the guarantee in recent months. If so, their view should be a reasonably well informed one.

While $816 million is a lot of money, it's worth bearing in mind that it excludes any subsequent recoveries from failed firms' loan books. Unless there is widespread Bridgecorp-style rot on these firms' books, and one hopes those types of outfits would never have got coverage in the first place, the eventual loss to Treasury and the taxpayer shouldn't be anywhere near the headline provision number. Less than 50 per cent doesn't seem like too much to hope for.


One of the best performing companies on the NZX this year has been eftpos firm Smartpay. Its year-to-date rise is 255 per cent!

Okay, we're talking about a stock that started the year 1.1 cent per share and was yesterday trading at 3.9c but while its still worth mere pennies, it's not looking so dreadful.

Its big move was in August around the time it acquired ProvencoCadmus' payments division out of receivership.

Last week it said it had agreed to buy Cadmus' Ethos operating system which it uses in its eftpos terminals.

It used to pay a commission to use the software.

"Ownership of the software should make a material difference to Smartpay's future profitability," said McDouall Stuart analyst John Kidd this week.

With the two acquisitions Smartpay had "cemented its now leading position in the New Zealand payments industry at very low cost".

The company has given guidance of $7.10 million in earnings for the March 2011 financial year.

If it can achieve this, Smartpay will leave its current market cap of less than $25 million behind, says Kidd.

"Provided Smartpay maintains its existing customer retention rate and successfully secures the funding it requires to complete the purchase of ProvencoCadmus' payments division, Smartpay's future looks very positive."


After its somewhat troubled sharemarket debut, boardroom services firm Diligent is also on the up. This week it reported a "record-breaking" third quarter with new sales at their best levels ever.

Net sales were up 63 per cent to US$1.3 million for the period and 65 per cent year to date at US$3.46 million.

The news was in fact so good that it looked as though the very shackles of time itself could not contain it. Diligent shares closed at 22c on Friday and by the end of Monday's session were up 36 per cent to 30c on turnover of 86,000 shares.

The next day, the company came out with its glad tidings.

A Diligent spokesman said they were unaware of who had bought the stock and why. It is a curious movement but the value of stock involved suggests the profit to be made would hardly be worth the risk of being pinged for insider trading.

Diligent shares were unchanged at 30c yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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