Christopher Adams ' Opinion

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

Stock Takes: Speculation survives

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Mexico's sugar tax has been a financial blow for soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mexico's sugar tax has been a financial blow for soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola. Photo / Greg Bowker

Investor appetite for speculative software investments doesn't appear to have been shaken by this year's global sell-off of growth-focused technology stocks - if the forthcoming Serko offer is anything to go by.

The Auckland-based company, which has developed a cloud-based corporate travel booking platform, closed the public pool of its share offer this week as a result of high demand from institutional and retail investors.

Serko will be the first tech business to list on the NZX in 2014, a year in which tech equities - particularly those involved in cloud software - have been hit by a global sell-off as investors reassessed the soaring valuations of loss-making businesses with promises of future profit.

Xero, for example, closed at $29.80 yesterday, 33.7 per cent down on the all-time high of $44.98 reached in March.

Serko is a high-risk investment, with losses expected for at least two years while the firm focuses on growth.

When the offer was announced, some market players thought demand could be tepid and Gentrack - a profitable New Zealand software firm that will list on June 25, one day after Serko - could prove to be more popular with investors.

The strong support for both offers bodes well for many other software firms waiting in the wings, preparing to go public.

IPO TIDE RISING

One of the latest names to come out of the woodwork is Vista Entertainment Solutions, which provides software used by cinema operators.

Vista chief executive Murray Holdaway confirmed on Wednesday the company had engaged investment bankers Macquarie Capital to "consider capital-raising options" and a further update was expected to come next month.

The float is expected to raise A$100 million ($108 million) and value Vista at A$200 million, an Australian newspaper reported.

In another development this week, Wellington-based ikeGPS - maker of hardware and software used to photograph, measure and locate objects such as telegraph poles - confirmed plans for an NZX main-board listing that will raise up to $25 million of new capital.

Other tech firms tipped to be considering listing include Wherescape, PowerbyProxi, Orion Health, Eroad, PushPay, Fronde, CriqHQ and TripleJump.

GLASS REBRAND

A rebrand for Metro GlassTech has been revealed to institutional investors before a planned listing of the New Zealand glass supplier.

The company, founded in Auckland in 1987 and previously known as Metropolitan Glass, has been renamed Metro Performance Glass as it prepares to carry out an initial public offer next month or in August, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Metro was acquired for $366 million by Australian private equity firm Catalyst Investment Managers in 2006. That deal provided a mighty windfall for Metro's Auckland-based founders Andrew Smith, John Bedogni and Cameron Gregory.

But the investment became a nightmare for Catalyst as the glass firm struggled during the global financial crisis.

Ownership of Metro was transferred to its lenders for a sale price of $181.5 million after the company breached its financial covenants in 2011.

Sydney-based Crescent Capital Partners, which reportedly bought about $50 million of Metro's debt in 2008, continues to own close to a 40 per cent stake, according to the Companies Office. Other shareholders are Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan.

The AFR reports that Metro is expected to be valued in the range of $300 million to $400 million.

Mexican sugar tax bitter blow for NZ motor maker

Sometimes it seems as if Wellington Drive Technologies just can't win.

The North Shore-based refrigeration motor maker, which listed in 2001, has struggled to gain traction in the market, never reported a profit and continually tapped shareholders for cash.

Now the company has been forced to downgrade its full-year revenue and earnings expectations, partly as a result of a pesky Mexican sugar tax. Mexico is an important market for the company and Coca-Cola, which uses the firm's motors to power retail refrigerators, is a major customer in that country.

In an effort to curb soaring obesity rates, the Latin American nation introduced the tax earlier this year and it's hitting soft drink makers hard.

Coca-Cola Femsa, the American soft drink giant's Mexican bottling partner, expects its sales volumes to drop by up to 7 per cent this year as it passes the tax on to consumers.

Wellington flagged the sugar tax in January and this week said its Latin American customers were now signalling further demand reductions. Full-year revenue is now expected to be in line with the $27.4 million reported for the 12 months to December 31 last year, rather than the $30 million to $35 million previously expected.

The company says a previously anticipated full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) loss of less than $2 million will not be achieved. However, it is expected to be an improvement on last year's $2.9 million loss.

The company's shares closed unchanged at 11.7c last night.

- NZ Herald

Christopher Adams

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

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

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