Christopher Adams ' Opinion

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Stock Takes: NZX outages explained

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The New Zealand Stock Exchange board in the AMP Building on the corner of Custom St and Albert St in Auckland reflects the overnight crash on Wall Street. Tuesday 30 September 2008 New Zealan
The New Zealand Stock Exchange board in the AMP Building on the corner of Custom St and Albert St in Auckland reflects the overnight crash on Wall Street. Tuesday 30 September 2008 New Zealan

The NZX says a technology meltdown that forced trading to be halted for three hours last month was the result of five unusual "technical events" happening in quick succession which, had they taken place in isolation of each other, would not have caused any problems.

All trading was halted at 10.18am on the last Friday of June due to problems with financial information exchange (FIX) messaging - an electronic system for transferring information on securities trades - and did not resume until 1.30pm.

The exchange operator copped a hefty dose of flak from frustrated market participants in the hours following the outage, which was the fourth technical glitch to hit the market this year.

NZX says the five technical events included the messaging problem, a specific type of trading halt and a trader adjusting a price during the halt.

The company says updates have been made to avoid the issues recurring in the near-term and "permanent fixes" will be put in place over the next few weeks.

NZX says it has "utmost confidence" in the Nasdaq X-Stream trading system it launched in 2012.

One step closer

The NZX got a step closer to creating a new sharemarket for small to mid-sized businesses this week, gaining ministerial approval for the market to operate under a looser disclosure regime that will lower compliance costs for issuers.

But it remains unclear exactly when the new board will become operational, with NZX only saying an update will be provided next month.

NZX chief executive Tim Bennett has previously indicated that the launch would take place around the middle of this year.

Now we're heading towards the middle of July and the exchange operator still has to clear the new rules the market will operate under with the Financial Markets Authority.

NZX head of markets Aaron Jenkins says he hopes the market - which will target companies worth $10 million to $100 million - will be up and running before the end of the year.

He says NZX is "starting from scratch" with a fresh set of rules for the new board, which will eventually replace the NZAX alternative market that currently counts BurgerFuel, Snakk Media and Windflow Technology among its constituents.

"I just don't know how long the process will take as we work through the detail [of the new rules] with the FMA."

The new market will have a separate website to the main NZX site and prospective investors will have to certify they have read and accepted a risk warning before investing.

Instead of a full prospectus, companies will only be required to prepare a listing document that will include projections against key operating milestones but no financial forecasts.

Firms will have to disclose information quarterly - rather than the more onerous continuous disclosure required of businesses listed on the main board - as well as half-year and annual financial reports, according to draft rules released in March.

The new market will provide companies with an easier means of raising capital from the public, who will in turn get more investment options, but it's going to be very much a case of buyer beware. The less rigorous disclosure regime - combined with the fact that many of the eventual constituents will be growth-focused, early-stage businesses - means investors will need a strong appetite for risk.

Branding for the new board has been completed, but Jenkins wouldn't reveal the market's name.

In the past it has been referred to as the Growth Market, but that's just a working title, he says.

Costs a handbreak

With an initial public offering (IPO) frenzy in full swing you might expect to have seen a big rally in NZX's share price this year.

The exchange operator's stock has gained 9 per cent in the year to date - a solid but not outstanding performance, roughly in line with the NZX50. And its shares are basically flat compared with their level 12 months ago.

More than $7 billion in new capital was listed last year through 10 IPOs, while four companies have gone public so far in 2014 and at least six more listings will take place before the year is out.

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister says that while the IPOs are positive for the company, they have been offset by increasing costs facing the business.

"That's probably been a bit of a handbrake to the share price."

In February NZX reported a 22.6 per cent rise in full-year reported net profit to $12.1 million, while revenue lifted 12.2 per cent to $62.8 million.

At that time the company said the growth in expenses - which rose 9.1 per cent to $37 million in 2013 - was the result of a range of factors including increased staffing levels and additional IT costs.

NZX's operations are, of course, much more diverse than just equity trading, ranging from dairy futures to funds management and agricultural information.

The company will release its half-year result on August 11.

- NZ Herald

Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

A business journalist for more than four years, he also writes the weekly Stock Takes column.Christopher’s main focus is the local sharemarket and issues facing Kiwi investors. He covered manufacturing and retail in his previous Herald role and maintains a special interest in New Zealand’s growing trade relationship with China.

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