Christopher Adams

Christopher Adams is the Markets and Banking reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Rakon chair hits back at shareholder criticism

Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge. Photo / NZ Herald
Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge. Photo / NZ Herald

Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge has hit back at criticism from the Shareholders Association, which says the release of a trading update less than an hour before the start of the company's annual meeting last week was "disturbing" and put some investors at a disadvantage.

Grant Diggle, the association's acting chairman, said information in the market update - which forecast a $54 million full-year loss - was critical for shareholders to make informed decisions about the firm, whose shares have slumped 50 per cent over the past 12 months on the back of poor trading results.

"This last minute release of significant information meant shareholders who had given a proxy vote could not reconsider their voting intentions as to the re-election of the independent chairman Mr Mogridge, executive director Mr [Darren]Robinson and the election of independent director Mr [Herb] Hunt," Diggle said.

Mogridge said Rakon - whose crystal oscillator products are crucial components of telecommunications infrastructure and consumer goods such as smartphones - had a board meeting on Friday morning and had no option other than to release the trading update at 1.04pm that afternoon, 56 minutes before the start of the annual meeting.

"It wasn't done deliberately," he said. "It's mischievous to suggest that it was."

The Shareholders Association opposed the re-election of Mogridge and Robinson at last week's meeting, saying Rakon had lost credibility in the market.

But despite the group's opposition, both directors were re-elected.

Hunt, a former IBM executive who joined the board as an independent director last year, was formally elected by shareholders.

"Given the number of shares held by members of the board and interests associated with the board it was no surprise that all three were elected," Diggle said.

But he said the level of votes cast against Mogridge (17 per cent of the total) and Robinson (19 per cent of the total) was surprising, especially as Hunt was supported by 99 per cent of the votes cast.

"The Rakon shareholders have sent a powerful message to the board that they are displeased with the performance of the company and are looking for either an improvement in performance or a change in the composition of the board," Diggle said.

Asked whether he thought shareholders were disappointed with the company and board's performance, Mogridge said: "Of course they are."

At Friday's meeting he told shareholders that he was very conscious of Rakon's recent "rubbishy performance".

Mogridge said Rakon never wanted to repeat the performance of its last financial year, in which it posted a $32.8 million loss.

"It felt like for every step forward we were forced to take three steps back," he said.

Rakon is being hit by a big drop in the pricing it receives for products supplied to manufacturers of smart wireless devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, which it blames on a massive devaluation in the yen and the advantages that provided for its Japanese competitors.

In response, the company is selling an 80 per cent stake in Rakon Crystal Chengdu - a Chinese manufacturing plant it commissioned in 2011 to produce products for the smart wireless device market.

The proceeds of the sale, around US$19 million, will be used to pay down Rakon's debt.

The company says it is moving its focus away from the smart wireless device market towards three market segments: global telecommunications infrastructure, the avionics, space and defence industries and specialised global positioning system (GPS) devices.

On the back of those changes the company has forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of $10 to $15 million and a return to profit in the 2015 financial year.

Rakon shares, which were worth almost $6 in 2007, were trading at 22c just before midday.

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