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Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Serko shares up, then down on NZX debut

Serko co-founder and chief strategy officer Bob Shaw (left), chairman Simon Botherway and co-founder and chief executive Darrin Grafton. Photo / Richard Robinson
Serko co-founder and chief strategy officer Bob Shaw (left), chairman Simon Botherway and co-founder and chief executive Darrin Grafton. Photo / Richard Robinson

Software developer Serko's bumpy sharemarket debut could be a result of unfortunate timing, with other growth-focused stocks such as Xero and Pacific Edge also facing a sell-off today, analysts say.

The Auckland-based firm's newly listed stock initially rose 2.7 per cent from the $1.10 issue price to $1.13, before plunging to $1 just before midday.

Shares in Serko, which develops corporate travel booking software, have regained some ground and were trading at $1.05 at 1.30pm.

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister said the fall in Serko's share price probably came down to timing.

"If Serko had listed on a day that was a bit friendlier to those sorts of [high-growth] stocks then it might of held up a little better," he said.

Shares in online accounting software developer Xero -- which hit an all-time high of $44.98 in March -- fell to a nine-month low of $23 today, before gaining back ground to be trading at $25 just after 1pm.

Bladder cancer test provider Pacific Edge's shares are down more than 6 per cent at 76c.

Lister pointed out that Wynyard Group shares also fell on their NZX debut last year, but that company's stock recovered and went on to perform strongly.

"Sometimes you've got to give these things a bit of time for the dust to settle," he said. "For [Serko] investors that are there on day one, they obviously won't like to see [the stock] trading below what they paid for it."

Serko is the first technology business to list on the NZX in 2014, a year in which tech equities -- particularly those involved in cloud software and biotechnology -- have been hit by a global sell-off as investors reassess the soaring valuations of many businesses.

Rickey Ward, JBWere's New Zealand equity manager, said the fall in Serko shares reflected "general nervousness" in the market around tech companies, which were challenging to analyse and value.

"I'm not that surprised that they've struggled on day one," he said. "It might be just bad timing on their part and they [Serko] can't be held accountable for that."

Serko raised $22 million through its initial public offer (IPO). Cash raised through the listing will be used to employ staff and fund the firm's growth ambitions. The company closed the public pool component of its IPO early as a result of strong demand.

Serko's software is used by roughly 6000 corporations and government agencies across the Asia Pacific region.

The issue price of $1.10 valued the company at $67.5 million.

Serko's technology allows travel management companies to better manage bookings for their corporate travellers, connecting to airlines, as well as hotels and rental cars and allows the user to make online bookings based on a company's travel policy.

"We are very pleased to reach this exciting milestone," Serko chief executive Darrin Grafton said in a statement issued after the company's shares began trading on the NZX. "We greatly appreciate the support and confidence of our new investors. We are now moving forward with our plans to expand our existing business into new markets and develop new products that will help corporations run more cost effective travel programmes for their employees."

Chairman Simon Botherway said the response to Serko's capital raising had "been very pleasing. We now have a strong and diverse share register".

The company processes around US$3 billion ($3.5 billion) in travel spending across the Asia Pacific and forecasts $11 million in revenue for the financial year ending March 2015.

Serko is anticipating bottom-line losses for at least two years as it pushes for growth in the US$380 billion Asia Pacific corporate travel market.

The company is preparing to launch a mobile application for corporate travel, which it will charge a premium for. It also offers a cloud-based travel expense system for a monthly subscription of $8.

Software business Gentrack will list on the NZX and ASX tomorrow, while ikeGPS -- which has developed a device used by organisations including electricity utilities to photograph, measure and GPS-locate objects such as telegraph poles -- expects to list on July 23.

Technology firms including Orion Health, Vista Entertainment Solutions, Eroad, TripleJump and CricHQ have been tipped to list this year.

- NZ Herald

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