The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Fruit, software in and industrials out in NZX 50 shake up

Vista CEO Murray Holdaway (centre) pictured with NZX boss Tim Bennett and Vista chairman Kirk Senior at the firm's 2014 listing ceremony.
Vista CEO Murray Holdaway (centre) pictured with NZX boss Tim Bennett and Vista chairman Kirk Senior at the firm's 2014 listing ceremony.

New Zealand's benchmark share index is getting a shake-up, with industrial firms Skellerup and Steel & Tube Holdings exiting to be replaced by fruit exporter Scales Corporation and cinema software developer Vista Group.

The changes to the S&P/NZX 50 - part of a quarterly rebalancing of the S&P/NZX indices - will take place after market close on September 16.

Measures including market capitalisation and liquidity are assessed for inclusion in the index.

Scales and Vista have been two of the best performers of the flurry of local companies going public in 2014.

Vista shares, which closed up 2.9 per cent at a record $6.80 last night, have gained 190 per cent since the company floated.

Shares in Scales have more than doubled in value, to close up 3.1 per cent at $3.33 yesterday, since the IPO.

Vista chief executive Murray Holdaway said entering the index could boost the company's profile, and put the firm on the radar of index-tracking fund managers.

Vista's market capitalisation, which reached $542 million yesterday, had been large enough to enter the NZX 50 for some time, he said.

But the firm's tightly-held share register had made it hard for the company to meet the NZX 50's liquidity requirements.

A management sell-down in March, when 20 major shareholders, including Holdaway, sold almost 26 per cent of the company, had helped Vista pass the liquidity test, Holdaway said. He said the shares were still tightly held by some fund managers.

"But there has been a reasonable amount of trading by retail investors [since the sell-down]." Vista, with cinema management software used in more than 60 countries, posted an interim profit of $2.3m last month, more than double the figure it reported for the same period a year earlier.

Scales, meanwhile, has been riding high on surging demand for its fruit and record crops. New Zealand's biggest apple exporter reported a 3per cent lift in half-year net profit last month, to $33.8m, while revenue jumped 30 per cent to $209.5m.

Scales managing director Andy Borland said the company had set a goal of entering the NZX 50 when it listed in 2014.

"The ambition was to grow the company ... and earnings have been a lot better than what we predicted in the PFI [prospective financial information]." Skellerup and Steel & Tube entered the index in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Steel & Tube has been the subject of a Commerce Commission investigation into certification for earthquake reinforcing mesh and was forced to cut guidance in May as a result of issues including product quality and intense competition.

Its shares, which reached their lowest level since 2001 in June, closed up 1.4 per cent at $2.22 last night.

Skellerup, which reported a 6 per cent drop in full-year profit to $20.5m last month, has seen its shares fall almost 10 per this year to close steady at $1.36 yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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