The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Private equity boss on Dick Smith collapse: 'Who cares?'

Industry player’s views on Dick Smith striking.
Archer Capital boss Peter Wiggs expressed disinterest in the collapse of Dick Smith.
Archer Capital boss Peter Wiggs expressed disinterest in the collapse of Dick Smith.

You would hope the private equity industry has learned a thing or two from the collapse of Dick Smith.

But comments from the boss of one major Australian player aren't particularly encouraging.

Peter Wiggs, chief executive of Sydney-based Archer Capital, was asked for his view on the Dick Smith failure at the Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association conference in Melbourne last week.

His response, according to the Australian newspaper, was: "Who cares?"

"The great thing is that no one who is important in private equity cares what the financial press says about it," Wiggs was quoted as saying. "My LPs [limited partners] don't care, my advisers don't care, I certainly don't care."

He went on to say the media was simply out to "slander" the private equity industry.

"The financial press just loves bad news and it will find whatever angle it can to generate that."

The Dick Smith disaster sparked debate about the complex financial engineering used by private equity firms like Anchorage Capital, which in 2012 acquired Dick Smith for about A$100 million from supermarket operator Woolworths.

Anchorage floated the retailer on the Australian stock exchange the following year with a market value of more than A$500m.

Shareholders are unlikely to recoup any funds following the collapse, but Anchorage banked hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from the deal.

A hearing into the collapse is underway in Australia's Supreme Court.

Archer Capital wasn't involved in the Dick Smith float, but Wiggs' views are still striking.

Sweet scent

Craigs Investment Partners remains bullish on Trilogy International shares, despite the meteoric run-up they've had over the past couple of years.

The sharebroker's private wealth arm initiated coverage of the skincare products and scented candle stock this month with a "overweight" rating and a $5.55 one-year price target.

Shares in Trilogy, whose brands include Ecoya, closed unchanged yesterday at $4.50.

Craigs analyst Nachi Moghe is forecasting a compound annual growth rate of 18.5 per cent in revenue and 23.4 per cent earnings-per-share growth over the next five years.

Trilogy's balance sheet was in good shape, with "negligible" debt levels following a recent $25m capital raising, he said in a research note.

Moghe said that, coupled with strong profit growth and solid cash flows, meant there was potential for Trilogy to pursue "capital management initiatives" or acquisitions.

Big opportunity

China, meanwhile, is a big growth opportunity for Trilogy, Moghe said.

Craigs estimates that up to 10 per cent of the products Trilogy sells in Australasia end up in Asia's biggest economy via the so-called Daigou channels, which involve goods being purchased overseas for re-sale in China.

Moghe said the company was in discussions with Alibaba's Tmall and JD.com around establishing dedicated online shopfronts "which in our view would dramatically increase sales to China".

It's worth noting, however, that China can be a fickle market, particularly for companies like Trilogy that largely rely on third parties to sell product there.

Businesses can easily be broken by regulatory changes; a case in point being the fallout from an infant formula brand registration requirement, which came into force in May 2014, which resulted in many small-scale New Zealand baby-milk exporters going under.

A recently introduced e-commerce tax has also been putting pressure on China's cross border online retail market.

Missed opportunity

Investment firm JBWere has weighed in with its take on the Herald's "Dirty Secrets of KiwiSaver" investigation.

The coverage included revelations that thousands of Kiwis had cash in funds with stakes in armaments manufacturers, including cluster bombs makers, raising questions over whether such investments were illegal.

In its monthly note to clients, JBWere said the story highlighted how too much of New Zealand's wealth was "farmed out" to foreign managers.

"KiwiSaver should be an opportunity for New Zealanders to have more say in how their money is invested."

The rise of emerging market equities made responsible investing increasingly important for fund managers, JBWere added.

Many issues lurked in such markets, the company said, including weak governance, poor environmental practices and mistreatment of workers.

- NZ Herald

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