Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Floats far from a sure bet

Not all newcomers to the stock exchange in the past year have proved to be winners.

Moa's chief executive Geoff Ross pours a beer after the company listed on the NZX in November. Photo / Greg Bowker
Moa's chief executive Geoff Ross pours a beer after the company listed on the NZX in November. Photo / Greg Bowker

The sharemarket has seen a raft of new companies launch on to the exchange in the past 14 months but not all have proved to be winners.

Boutique beer brewer Moa kicked off a run of floats in November last year but has been the worst performer for investors buying into initial public offers.

As of Friday Moa shares had fallen nearly 49 per cent from its $1.25 issue price amid problems with distribution.

It is one of three out of 11 floats that were trading below their issue price at the end of last week. A further three had gained less than 3 per cent.

Among the poor performers are the Government's state-owned power company floats with Mighty River Power down close to 18 per cent and Meridian Energy up just 3.5 per cent.

The strongest performance has come from technology minnows GeoOp and Snakk Media. Both initially listed without raising money from the public.

GeoOP raised money through a private capital raising ahead of its float blocking retail investors from getting in at the start while Snakk raised money after listing through a share purchase plan.

Outside of the tech minnows only Synlait Milk and SLI Systems have given investors in initial public offerings a double-digit return.

Matthew Goodson, joint managing director at Salt Funds Management, said there was plenty of international research which showed initial public offers were not often winners for investors.

"It's a case of buyer beware."

Goodson said IPOs typically came to market when shares were trading at higher levels and often the companies "looked sexy" but were unproven. The NZX 50 index hit an all time high in November and has added around 16 per cent this year, following a 24 per cent gain last year.

"There is always the odd winner that keeps people buying," he said.

Goodson said technology IPOs like Snakk Media, SLI Systems, Wynyard Group and GeoOp were riding on the coat-tails of Xero's success.

While top performer GeoOp was an interesting business it was extremely difficult to justify the current market price, Goodson said. GeoOp provides an online service for businesses to quote, book and invoice for their work.

"The problem with digital - it makes these apps possible but also means there are no entry barriers.

"When it requires several decades of growth to justify the share price, it starts feeling like 1999."

That was just before the tech bubble burst.

Goodson said he had not invested in Moa because he couldn't understand the business model.

Rickey Ward, head of equities at Tyndall Investment Management, said Synlait had strong backing from the start because it was tapping into the growing demand for dairy out of Asia.

"I think everybody believed it would be good because it had a thematic behind it."

The company had not just delivered on expectations but exceeded them, he said.

Ward said he believed a lot of the success of IPOs came down to how their shares were allocated - whether they went to buyers who planned to just sell them on for quick profit or to long-term holders.

Part of the reason why the state-owned power company sales had struggled was because the international stakes had been spread too thinly causing buyers to sell up because they didn't have enough of a stake to make it worthwhile, he said.

Ward said there were plenty more IPOs in the pipeline for next year but they would most likely be smaller companies in the $200 million to $300 million range.

He said investors should be prepared to do their homework to weed out the good from the bad.

"The days of buying into an IPO and getting a 10 per cent stag are gone. Investors are going to have to do work."

Goodson said key factors included who was selling the business and why, the outlook for the business in normal economic conditions and whether earnings were sustainable.

- NZ Herald

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