Nelson-based firm to add sea farms, pay down debt with IPO.

New Zealand King Salmon could have done without an aquatic visitor during a recent tour of its Marlborough Sounds sea farms by institutional investors.

The firm, which this week confirmed plans for an initial public offering and transtasman sharemarket listing, hosted the fund managers last month.

The tour included a King Salmon staff member providing an overview of the firm's "predator protection" measures, according to sources.

Unfortunately, it was then that a seal popped out of the water with a mouthful of high-quality salmon.


Not the best timing.

Apparently the pesky pinniped was consuming only the choicest morsels and discarding the rest of the fish.

Growth push

Nelson-based King Salmon is looking to raise up to $200 million through the IPO, of which around $30m will go towards paying down debt and developments such as new sea farms. There will also be a sell-down by shareholders.

Malaysian-owned Oregon Group's shareholding is expected to reduce from 51 per cent to around 40 per cent, while private equity firm Direct Capital is aiming to sell some or all of its 42 per cent stake.

The company laid out its growth plans in a fact sheet released on Wednesday. The strategy includes a possible expansion into Southland, should water space be made available, and a pet food offering made from salmon by-products set to go on sale in a major supermarket next month.

King Salmon, which is touting a dividend payout amounting to 50 per cent of operating net profit this financial year, is also eyeing the potential for land-based farming. The company has forecast a net profit of $10.1m for the 2017 financial year, rising to $14.1m in 2018.

Contrasting fortunes

The changing dynamics of the Chinese infant formula industry were laid bare when Biostime International and NZX-listed A2 Milk reported financials for the June half.

Hong Kong-listed, Guangzhou-based Biostime posted a 14 per cent decline in overall baby milk revenue, including a 66 per cent slump in sales of its ADiMIL brand "as a result of increased competition in the mid-tier segment" in China.

Traditional players, like Biostime and Fonterra's Shenzhen-listed formula partner Beingmate Baby & Child, are being challenged by a flood of formula entering Asia's biggest economy via the so-called grey channels, which is often sold in China's vast online retail market.

A2 has been benefiting from that, with a large portion of the formula it sells in Australasia passing through various channels into the hands of mainland Chinese consumers.

The company reported a 414 per cent surge in infant formula revenue for the year to June 30, to $214.4m.

A2 shares have soared by more than 170 per cent in the past 12 months as a result of the firm's stellar growth.

But the stock has come off the boil since the result, despite the strong numbers it reported, falling 17.4 per cent since August 23 to close at $1.90 last night.

In addition to competition, new and soon-to-be introduced Chinese infant formula regulations, including an expected three-brand limit for manufacturers, have been shaking up the industry.

AGM anxiety

With reporting season out of the way, the focus is turning towards upcoming annual meetings.

A number of companies - including A2, Genesis Energy and Port of Tauranga - didn't give financial guidance with their results, opting instead to provide it at their annual meetings. Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, said that could increase market volatility during the AGM season.

"Whenever you're going to get a string of trading updates you're inevitably going to get some that will be better than others," he said.

"But all in all, the economy and corporate New Zealand's in good shape and profitability is going in the right direction. I don't see that changing between now and October or November."

First NZ Capital said it had assessed a "generally less positive tone" to companies' outlook statements during reporting season.