Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business Editor

Stock takes: Market gap

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Simon Botherway, general manager of investment management at ANZ Wealth, is leaving this month. Photo / Dean Purcell
Simon Botherway, general manager of investment management at ANZ Wealth, is leaving this month. Photo / Dean Purcell

Now that Mighty River Power is off the cards until next year all eyes are turning to the next big listing to hit the market - Fonterra's Trading Among Farmers unit trust.

The unit trust is expected to list on the NZX in November giving non-farmers exposure to the dairy industry.

So far the investment has been met with mixed views from the industry which is taking a wait-and-see approach.

There is also hope - particularly from the broking industry - that the gap between now and November could allow another company to come to the market.

The pipeline of initial public offerings has virtually dried up in the face of Mighty River Power's pending float.

One non-broking source said he knew of a possibility for a potential float. But another market source said it was very difficult to get an initial public offering together in a short timeframe.

UNDER FIRE

Components maker Rakon is expected to face a barrage of questions from shareholders at its annual meeting today.

The former sharemarket darling fell out of the NZX-50 index earlier this year and has been plagued by poor performance and board issues.

The recent departure of long-standing chief financial and operating officer Graham Leaming has also been viewed as a significant loss to the company.

Leaming had been with Rakon for seven years and will move to Skellerup.

Shareholders Association chairman John Hawkins said he would be putting some questions to the board. "We are concerned about the current makeup of the board. Change in this company needs to start at the top."

A year ago Rakon was trading at 74c. Yesterday it closed up 1c at 44c.

LAZY BALANCE SHEET

The wily Sir Selwyn Cushing, who along with Sir Ron Brierley has launched many a takeover in his time, could well be doing a double-take on the company he chairs - Skellerup Holdings - now that it has a so-called lazy balance sheet.

The company's annual result last week showed it had next to no debt - although that could quickly change once its Christchurch relocation plans are crystallised.

Skellerup is in the market for about 4ha of land in west Christchurch to replace its earthquake-affected Woolston operation.

How much it forks out for its new digs will depend on the success or failure of its insurance claims, but it will not come cheap.

For the moment, though, the company's balance sheet is in disgustingly good health, which perhaps in more buoyant times would be a red flag for any takeover merchant worth his salt.

However, any prospective corporate raider would have to get past Sir Selwyn, who has 6 per cent of the stock.

Shares in Skellerup have been a strong performer and closed up 1c yesterday at $1.66, compared to about $1.17 this time last year.

ENVIROWASTE SALE?

Speculation in the Australian business media that New Zealand waste management business EnviroWaste had been formally put up for sale may have been premature. The Australian Financial Review's "Street Talk" said EnviroWaste's owner, Ironbridge Capital, had sent information memoranda to prospective private equity and trade buyers.

A source told Stock Takes Ironbridge was not quite at that formal stage just yet, but that it still intended to sell.

The AFR said Ironbridge and its adviser, Macquarie Capital, had spoken informally to Japan's ORIX Corp. A spokesman for Envirowaste declined to comment on the AFR report.

The price tag for EnviroWaste is understood to be about $500 million to $600 million.

Market sources told Stock Takes in June that Ironbridge would take a wait-and-see approach while Australian construction giant Leighton went about selling its unit, Thiess Waste Management.

Leighton sold Thiess Waste to Germany's Remondis AG & Co KG for A$218 million ($280 million), or 5.9 times its earnings.

EnviroWaste's chairman Kim Ellis said in June that Thiess Waste - Australia's sixth biggest waste management company - would have special relevance.

He said then if EnviroWaste was not off Ironbridge's hands by the end of this year, it would be withdrawn from sale.

Ironbridge bought EnviroWaste from Fulton Hogan for $365 million in December 2006.

TOWER REVIEW

Tower investors should finally get some clue as to the direction of the company next week when it announces the results of its strategic review. The insurer, which this week forecast a profit downgrade off the back of claims from the Christchurch earthquake, announced the review in February.

Undertaken by investment bank Goldman Sachs it has involved a close look at the company's capital structure, its four business units, and strategic acquisition and divestment opportunities.

Market expectations are that the review will recommend a break-up of the business.

Speculation has been circulating for weeks that Tower has already been in talks to sell off parts of the business to various other financial institutions.

The company is under pressure from its major shareholder Guinness Peat Group to release some cash. Other shareholders also want to see a major change in leadership of the company.

Shares in Tower closed up 2c yesterday at $1.78.

BOTHERWAY OFF

Former boutique fund manager Simon Botherway is moving on - again.

After less than 18 months as general manager of investment management at ANZ Wealth Botherway has resigned and will leave at the end of this month.

Botherway has struggled to maintain a long-term position since he sold his remaining stake in Brook Asset Management to Macquarie in 2008.

He helped set up the Financial Markets Authority and was widely expected to take on the permanent chairman's role but is believed to have declined it for personal reasons.

Botherway has also dabbled in directorships taking a role on the board of Fisher & Paykel Appliances, which he stepped down from in April last year upon joining ANZ.

The question is what now for the one-time shareholder activist?

Back to fund management maybe?

UNDER REVIEW

ANZ Wealth has said Botherway's role is now under review but it has quashed rumours it will be outsourcing its investment management.

A spokesman for the company said it had no plans to stop managing money in house.

"We are now part of a global wealth and private banking division," the spokesman said.

"The New Zealand team will be looking to leverage the scale and expertise of our global business to improve the investment proposition for our customers."

"There are no current plans to change the functions or day-to-day responsibilities of the NZ investment management team."

- NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business Editor

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business 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 writes the Stock Takes column on investing in NZ and is passionate about helping readers learn more about money and investment.

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