The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Rakon rockets into the lions' den

Association is calling for sweeping changes at annual meeting.
The NZ Shareholders Association says Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge's position is "up in the air". Picture / Jason Oxenham.
The NZ Shareholders Association says Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge's position is "up in the air". Picture / Jason Oxenham.

Listed companies usually go to great lengths to avoid confrontational annual shareholder meetings.

It is, after all, the one time each year when - for a couple of hours - they have very little control of their destiny.

Anything can happen come question time, and the media is often there to report it.

That's why it's a little surprising that Rakon appears intent on plunging headlong into its AGM, scheduled for September 16, without making any major concessions to its rightfully grumpy investors.

To recap, the New Zealand Shareholders Association is calling for sweeping board and management changes at the high-tech component maker.

Rakon, which has never paid a dividend since listing a decade ago, has made only one annual profit - $3.2 million in 2015 - amid total losses of nearly $119 million over the past five years.

Its shares, which floated at $1.60 in the firm's 2006 IPO and soared to $5.67 within a year, closed at 22.5c yesterday.

The association says the Robinson family has too much influence over the company and has called for investors to vote against the re-election of executive director Darren Robinson at the meeting.

It has also called for his father, Warren, who founded the firm in 1967, to voluntarily stand down from the board and said CEO and managing director Brent Robinson, Darren's brother, is not the right man for the job.

Rakon chairman Bryan Mogridge's position is also "up in the air", according to the association, which has also criticised the lucrative pay packages enjoyed by Brent and Darren.

Full steam ahead

With all of that in mind, Stock Takes was sure the technology manufacturer would announce some big changes ahead of the meeting.

Not so.

Mogridge did extend an olive branch, of sorts, to shareholders in a letter dated August 18 that was released to the NZX on Monday.

The board had "vigorously debated a large number of areas for change" over the past year including governance, management positions, strategy and operating costs, he said.

Senior remuneration packages were also under review.

And Mogridge said that if he was elected back on to the board at next month's meeting he wouldn't seek another term.

He would stay on only long enough to bring about substantial changes in profit, company structure and board composition.

So far so good, you might say.

But the letter contains a couple of lines that may rile tetchy investors who have, in recent years, watched hundreds of millions of dollars in shareholder value disappear into the ether.

Mogridge pointed out that company founder Warren wasn't up for re-election at the upcoming meeting.

"Should Warren decide not to stand at his next re-election, then he should be able to retire with dignity and the applause due to him for what he achieved in founding Rakon almost 50 years ago," he said.


The Robinson family netted $56m from selling shares to the public through Rakon's IPO, plus another $12m from the sale of shares to Sir Peter Maire and another party.

Suggesting a round of applause is due from investors who haven't received a single cent in dividends - and are holding shares in a near penny dreadful - is a bit much.

Mogridge also said the board had "nothing but praise" for Brent (who received a $907,892 pay package in the last financial year) and rejected suggestions he wasn't a good CEO for the firm.

Hold on to your hats - it looks like next month's meeting is going to be a fiery one indeed.

Uncertain times

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is facing a less certain outlook as it embarks on what's expected to be a lengthy intellectual property dispute with rival ResMed.

Shares in the Auckland-based medical device maker have come off the boil this month, falling 9.6 per cent since peaking at a record close of $10.78 on August 12.

The company announced on August 16 that it had filed patent infringement proceedings against California-based ResMed in a US court. ResMed swiftly hit back with its own lawsuit alleging patent infringements of its products by the New Zealand firm.

Shane Solly, a portfolio manager with Harbour Asset Management, said the litigation increased the uncertainty facing investors in both companies. "Those stocks have been pretty hot," he said. "We have some level of comfort that [F&P] Healthcare can defend itself."

F&P Healthcare chairman Tony Carter reassured investors at the firm's annual meeting on Tuesday that the company had sufficient funds to cover legal costs.

But he said the dispute could take up to 10 years to be resolved.

The company updated guidance at the meeting, saying a "firming" of the NZ dollar meant full-year net profit was expected to be around $165m from operating earnings of $880m.

The last set of guidance, provided in May, was for net profit in the range of roughly $165m to $170m and operating revenue of around $900m.

Jury's out

News that BurgerFuel will press on with plans to launch in the United States delivered some welcome share price gains this week.

But the NZAX-listed restaurant operator will probably have to get a few runs on the board before its stock gets back to anywhere near the levels it reached in 2014 after the US entry was first announced.

BurgerFuel confirmed on Tuesday that it would proceed with plans to establish a presence in the world's biggest economy, starting in the Midwest.

However, the company is now going it alone in the home of the hamburger following the end of its collaboration agreement with Subway-linked Franchise Brands.

BurgerFuel shares, which rallied to a record close of $3.79 in 2014 following the announcement of the US entry and Subway partnership, closed at $1.78 last night.

- NZ Herald

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