NZX chief executive Tim Bennett will leave the stock exchange operator at the end of 2016, a year earlier than envisaged when he joined the company.



Bennett will end a four-year tenure in charge of NZX on December 31 to allow for a new chief to start at the beginning of the financial year, the Wellington-based company said in a statement.

Under his watch, NZX oversaw a jump in listings that coincided with the government's partial privatisation programme, the expansion of a suite of derivative products, and the acquisition of SuperLife and Apteryx to boost the stock exchange's funds management business.

"Tim's original employment agreements envisaged a five-year commitment to NZX," chairman James Miller said.

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"With Tim indicating a desire to step down and in order to ensure an orderly succession, the board started a conversation with Tim on how to best manage that transition, and today's announcement clears the way for the board to search for a new CEO."

Bennett replaced Mark Weldon in 2012 who had been in charge of NZX for a decade. Weldon oversaw a series of acquisitions that boosted the value of the stock exchange operator, though that included the Clear Grain Exchange which has been the subject of drawn-out litigation between NZX and its Australian vendors.

The company also warned on earnings guidance, saying the cost of restructuring its agri business and looking for a new chief executive will mean earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation will be at the lower end of its previous guidance of $22.5 million-to-$26.5 million.

Bennett said he had led the company through a period of intense change which was largely through and that the time was right for someone else to take over the reins.

NZX's board will start an international search for a new chief executive, with the successful applicant needing a "strong priority" to grow shareholder value while at the same time, growing New Zealand's capital markets, Miller said.

Bennett's CEO share scheme will continue to run until August next year.

NZX shares last traded at $1.05 and have dipped 1.9 per cent this year. The stock is rated an average 'hold' based on three analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters with a median target price of $1.11.