Comvita shares rising after result

By Tamsyn Parker, Agencies

The price of honey has hit a record high on the back of bad summer weather and growing global demand. Photo / APN
The price of honey has hit a record high on the back of bad summer weather and growing global demand. Photo / APN

Shares in listed honey healthcare and skincare company Comvita have hit a new high, reaching the bottom point of a valuation range attributed to it during a spurned takeover offer made last year.

Comvita's share price rose 25c or 8 per cent to $3.40 yesterday, touching the $3.40 to $4 range placed on the business by Grant Samuel in October last year during a $2.50-a-share takeover offer made by Singapore-based Cerebos.

The share price rise comes amid news the price of New Zealand honey has hit a record high on the back of bad summer weather and growing global demand.

Neil Stuckey, owner of the Waitemata Honey Co and northern representative for the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand, estimated the overall honey crop would be down 30 per cent this year, with manuka down between 60 and 70 per cent.

According to a MAF apiculture report New Zealand produced 9450 tonnes of honey in the year to June 2011, and honey exports earned $101.6 million.

Prices have risen sharply as a result of the latest disappointing season and Stuckey said beekeepers who got $10 a kilo for manuka honey last year were now receiving $15.

But Craigs Investment Partners analyst Selwyn Blinkhorne said Comvita's share price rise was unlikely to be driven by a higher honey price as honey was a raw ingredient and a higher price could potentially cost the company more.

He linked the company's share price rise to its profit result announced last Wednesday and plans for a share buy-back, although he said the rise had come off low turnover.

Just 27,200 shares changed hands yesterday out of a total 28,466,871 on issue.

"That is part of the problem with smaller company stocks - any change in volume can have a reasonable impact on share price."

Comvita is still a long way off its record high of $4.05 reached before the global financial crisis in April 2007.

Blinkhorne said there were still questions over whether the company's profit was sustainable but it seemed to be on the right track.

He said it was hard to know how the spike in honey prices would affect the company.

"In the past they have said they will divert honey from bulk honey exports."

But others are already feeling the impact.

Honey Meisters is a Canterbury business that packs honey aimed at the tourist and gift market, and makes honey-based products such as Beenut Butter.

It has stores in Kapiti and Wellington and also sells online.

Over the past three months owner Kris Jansen has faced a 40 per cent increase in the price of the manuka honey she buys from beekeepers.

Already paying up to $18 a kilo for manuka honey, Jansen expected it to climb higher still and said even clover honey that used to cost under $5 a kilo was up to $6 or $7.

Native honeys such as rata, rewarewa and kamahi were in very short supply. "One of my beekeepers only got 10 per cent of his normal crop."

Beekeepers Association president Barry Foster said higher honey prices were offset by the fact that apiarists had had to contend with increased costs for fuel, labour and sugar (used to feed bees in bad weather), and a growing number of apiarists were spending up to $160 a hive to have them helicoptered into manuka growing areas.

Foster said there was concern the honey price rise would increase pressure on regulators to allow imports of cheap honey, now banned because of the risk of introducing new bee diseases to New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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