Stock Takes: Michael Hill eyes reality TV show

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He's known for his jewellery stores, golf course and beautiful yacht and now Michael Hill could also be involved in a reality television show.

The wealthy business-owner has suggested a show could be a possibility as part of his Ultimate Engagement Ring competition.

Hill is using American reality TV star Kim Kardashian to promote the competition which offers the chance for couples in New Zealand, Australia, the US and Canada to win a 22.25-carat diamond ring.

He told members of the New Zealand Shareholders Association at their annual awards dinner last week that filming Kardashian was part of the deal and it could lead to a TV show.

But he admitted neither he nor his wife were big fans of reality TV. Asked whether he had watched much of the US star's show Keeping up with the Kardashians he said his wife had watched about 15 minutes before turning it off.

Hill says he is in the process of revamping all his jewellery stores after learning a lot from entering the tough US market.

A new range of jewellery is also expected to be launched before Christmas after Hill hired a new designer from a firm linked to United States investment guru Warren Buffet.

He is also planning a perfume range.

Shares in Michael Hill International closed steady on 80c yesterday.

DOLLAR BITES

At least one broker has advised shareholders to sell out of Fisher & Paykel Healthcare after it revealed on Wednesday a 54 per cent drop in net profit for its half year.

Citigroup analysts cut their recommendation from hold to sell yesterday, according to Bloomberg.

The company's share price fell from $3.02 the night before to $2.95 on the result and continued falling yesterday.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has been a favourite with investors but has been buffeted by the high New Zealand dollar this year as well as a large deferred tax charge.

Excluding the one-off tax charge, its net profit fell from $37 million to $28.6 million.

Healthcare chief executive Mike Daniell says it is focusing on widening the currencies it trades in. But it's always going to be a tough ask for a company which gets almost half of its revenue from the US to overcome a volatile dollar.

Shares closed down 6c on $2.89 yesterday.

UNDER COVER

Credit rating firm Fitch's call for the Reserve Bank to help raise the standards of covered bonds through new rules it is developing had some scratching their heads this week, given Bank of New Zealand has already issued two covered bonds.

Covered bonds are bonds which are secured against a pool of assets, such as mortgages.

The bank undertook a smaller offer in June last year to local investors and last week completed a €1 billion offer in Europe.

Westpac also said at its recent results briefing that it plans to issue covered bonds as well some time next year.

So why don't we already have rules in place - are these covered bond things new?

Apparently not. Unlike Australia which bans its banks from selling them, New Zealand has always allowed for them but up until recently our banks weren't interested because they could raise money more cheaply in other ways.

That has all changed since the global financial crisis.

AUSSIE BAN

So why are we allowing our banks to do covered bonds here when their parent companies in Australia are banned from issuing them?

RBNZ spokesman Mike Hannah says Australia is unusual in that it has built into law that people who deposit money into a bank must always have first call on a bank's assets if it goes under.

Covered bonds allow a bank to sell investors the right to have first call on a particular pool of assets, usually mortgages, ahead of other creditors.

The asset pool is also worth more than what it is sold for and has to be maintained at that high level, which means if one of the mortgages isn't paid on time it will be swapped out for a better one.

Potentially if the bank falls over, covered bond investors have the right to sell those particular assets and benefit from the sale ahead of depositors getting their money back.

BANKING WORRIES

That has at least one local fixed interest head feeling nervous. First NZ Capital's Graeme Beckett says one concern is that if more value is being put into the covered bond than what investors are paying for, where does that leave the value of the remaining assets at the bank?

And if that bond has to be maintained at a certain level then surely that means the credit quality of mortgages outside of the bond could go down.

He says most people who deposit money with a bank wouldn't even be aware that the assets backing the bank's credit quality could go down as a result of the bank issuing covered bonds.

The RBNZ has acknowledged these concerns in its consultation document but says if the covered bonds are kept to a low level it is positive for a bank as it allows diversification of funding lines and funding to be spread over longer time-frames.

It has an informal agreement with the banks to limit covered bonds to 5 per cent of the total assets of the bank.

GOING UP

But its consultation document also recommends the limit in the new rules be set at a higher level of 10 per cent of total assets.

The RBNZ says this would be "relatively conservative".

It also notes that in Canada there is an asset limit of 4 per cent and in the United States covered bond issuance is limited to 4 per cent of total liabilities.

Hannah says the examples are limited and 10 per cent is more within the overseas ballpark when the wide range of countries is considered.

Consultation closed last week on the proposed new rules and the RBNZ expects to make a decision on what level it will finally set early next year.

The RBNZ has already been heavily involved with the banks on consulting over covered bonds and says any new rules brought in wouldn't "disadvantage" the banks that have already issued bonds before then.

BUILDING THE TEAM

AllianceBernstein's former investment team is in growth mode and has hired a new fixed income business head.

Alliance confirmed it was departing New Zealand last year and would run its $4 billion New Zealand investment business out of Australia.

But instead of going with the company the Wellington-based investment team, led by Andrew Bascand, set up boutique fund manager Harbour Asset Management with the backing of First NZ Capital.

Talk around the industry is that Harbour has been picking up business from other players.

This week it said its assets under management were now worth $650 million. That's small compared to what Alliance used to run but fairly large when it comes to boutique managers.

Ex-pat Kiwi Christian Hawkesby has joined the firm, returning home after spending nine years at the Bank of England.

TOP OF THE RANGE

The target company statement for Oyster Bay Marlborough Vineyards has revealed just how hard the wine glut has hit the company and how much it needs the takeover by its majority owner Delegat's to go ahead.

The report shows Oyster Bay has been in talks with investment bankers First NZ Capital since June after receiving a waiver on its banking covenant from Westpac on the condition that it come up with a plan to remedy its financial situation before October 31 and get it sorted by December 31.

First NZ told Oyster Bay's independent directors its current capital structure was unsustainable.

But of the restructuring options put forward only two - a full takeover by Delegat's or a rights issue underwritten by Delegat's - were considered feasible by the directors.

The independent directors recommended a full takeover and approached Delegat's with the First NZ report.

The target company statement also includes the independent report by Grant Samuel which reveals if Delegat's does not gain enough acceptances to acquire 100 per cent of Oyster Bay then Oyster will have to raise equity to reduce its debt which is expected to peak at $16.5 million in March.

The $2.08 cash per share offer being made by Delegat's is at the top end of the $1.76 to $2.08 value range estimated by Grant Samuel.

Oyster Bay's shares closed steady at $1.85.

- NZ Herald

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