Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Stock Takes: Time ripe for market listings

But too few candidates stepping up.
Volpara's software assists in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Picture / Getty Images
Volpara's software assists in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Picture / Getty Images

There's no doubting that the NZX and the wider investment community would like to see more initial public offers and sharemarket listings.

The conditions are right. There is plenty of demand for new paper and very low interest rates continue to make equities look attractive.

In addition, economic growth is still reasonably strong, with ASB predicting GDP growth to hit 4 per cent over the next couple of years.

The NZX and investment bankers are falling over themselves to get more stocks on board, but it is a matter of demand outstripping supply, with too few candidates stepping up to the plate.

Slipping through cracks

And every now and then, one slips between the cracks.

Wellington-based Volpara Health Technologies, which listed last month, completely bypassed the NZX and went straight to the ASX.

Volpara, which was established in 2009 under the name of Matakina Technologies, raised A$10 million from the issue of 20 million shares at A50c each, giving Volpara a market capitalisation of A$61 million at the issue price.

The company occupies a high-tech niche area - software to assist in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Its software is now in operation in 34 countries and chief executive and part owner Ralph Highnam says more than 9 million women have so far been tested using Volpara software.

"Now we are moving into a full sales and marketing phase, which is why we ended up listing on the ASX," he said.

According to Highnam, there is a revolution going on in breast cancer screening - mostly in the US.

"It's all about personalising breast cancer screening - making sure that the right kind of women get the right kind of screening at the right time," he said. "The key component to that is understanding the breast's composition and density."

Kiwi investors

Volpara's original investors were from the UK. Additional investors have come on board through brokers Craigs and K1W1 - the technology investment company owned by Sir Stephen Tindall. When it came to raising capital, initial soundings suggested New Zealand investors would have little trouble in investing in an ASX-listed company but potential Australian investors were not so keen on investing in an NZX-listed stock.

"When we started looking we noticed that kind of reticence."

Highnam and high profile Australian technology entrepreneur, Roger Allen, who is chairman, together own about one third of the company.

He said there were too few companies in New Zealand to which investors could compare Volpara.

"So we felt that the ASX had a broader and deeper understanding of the market for our kind of company and Australia is becoming a bigger and bigger sales opportunity for us."

Nothing personal

Highnam was quick to point out that he does not have a problem with the NZX but that listing here "may have been a bit limiting. If we were a different type of company, it might have been a different story. We are a very niched kind of play."

Volpara shares closed at A43.2c yesterday, against the issue price of A50c, most likely reflecting a decision by early investors to sell down their stakes, Highnam said.

Coats/GPG bows out

Thread manufacturer Coats Group looks set to delist from the New Zealand board next month, ending a 26-year association with the New Zealand market. At this week's annual meeting in London, shareholders voted to delist the stock from the NZX and the ASX. From June 25 onwards, Coats shares will only be tradeable on the London Stock Exchange. The delisting from the NZX signals the end of an era - one that had its genesis in 1990 when Sir Ron Brierley led a listing of Guinness Peat Group (now Coats) on the NZX. In 2011, GPG decided to sell off its eclectic asset portfolio, leaving Coats as its sole remaining business. The asset sales process was successfully completed in 2014.

Investors take bath

Investors in Fonterra's opposite number in Australia - Murray Goulburn - have taken a bath in the aftermath of the company's earnings downgrade.

Units in Murray Goulburn - Australia's biggest dairy company - closed at A82.5c yesterday, down from A$2.14 just before the April 27 earnings announcement.

The co-operative, which competes head-to-head with Fonterra across the Tasman, has seen a boardroom exodus since the news of the downgrade broke. Managing director Gary Helou, and chief financial officer Brad Hingle resigned after the company said its farm-gate milk price of A$5.60 per kg of milksolids was no longer achievable. It now expects a price of A$4.75 to A$5/kg this year.

In February, the company forecast its annual net profit would come in at A$63 million against a prospectus forecast of A$89 million. Last month it said it expected net profit to fall to A$39 million to A$42 million.

This week Murray Goulburn said a group proceeding has been filed against it and a number of current and former directors in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

- NZ Herald

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