Money Editor for NZ Herald

More clarity on profits in May - NZX chief

Tim Bennett. Photo / NZ Herald
Tim Bennett. Photo / NZ Herald

NZX boss Tim Bennett says he will wait until the company's May annual meeting before giving any clearer guidance on its profits for this year.

The stock exchange operator this morning posted a 32 per cent decline in full-year net profit to $9.86 million for the December 31 year driven by a number of one-off costs, higher expenses and fewer listings.

"It is easy to forget what last year was like when you had such a strong fourth quarter. It was a terrific quarter unfortunately the remainder of the year was pretty lacklustre."

Bennett, who took over from long-serving NZX chief executive Mark Weldon in May, said he had undertaken a review of the business and that had incurred some one-off costs.

Expenses were up 15 per cent to $34 million. Bennett said since he had started he had reorganised the business hiring three new people for the management team.

Staff numbers had increased from 155 to 167. Most had been hired to operate Fonterra's trading among farmers platform.

Bennett said costs associated with staff would continue to rise this year as it needed to make an investment in training and bringing new people up to speed. But he expected costs to go down in 2014.

Bennett said 70 per cent of the business was driven by stable earnings streams which included providing data for the agri-sector and securities information and issuer fees and participant fees.

"We expect continued growth in that this year."

But the more exciting part of the business involving new listings was more uncertain because of market conditions. Over the past three years debt and equity issuance fees range from $2.8 million to $4.5 million and trading revenues ranged from $2.2 million to $5.3 million.

Bennett said if the environment remained the same it would be good for new listings. However he said the global economic environment remained fragile.

"We are not going to give any guidance at this stage - just because of the uncertainty around the IPO (initial public offering) pipeline."

Bennett said the listing of the state-owned energy companies had political challenges while smaller companies were sentiment driven.

"We will give more clarity around that at the annual shareholders meeting in May."

Brook Asset Management fund manager Andrew South said the result was in line with expectations. He said the performance of the stock this year would be at the whim of corporate activity, new listings and trading volumes.

Craigs Investment Partners head of research Mark Lister said if one-offs were taken out the business was slightly ahead of its expectations.

He had expected a normalised net profit of $11.7 million and it was $12.6 million.

Lister said operating expenses had been a bit higher than expected but that was largely to do with one-offs. "The revenue looks decent."

Lister said the company had made a lot of staff changes and he hoped it would have more stability now. The shares were down 3c to $1.27 by late afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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