Christopher Adams ' Opinion

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Stock takes: Questionable Criticism

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Eroad's software helps transport companies manage road user charges and track their fleets. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Eroad's software helps transport companies manage road user charges and track their fleets. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The criticism New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has levelled at Dame Jenny Shipley for her role with China Construction Bank's local operation is hard to take seriously.

The Shanghai and Hong Kong-listed lender was granted a licence to operate in New Zealand this week, becoming the second Chinese bank to be given the green light to operate here after the clearance given to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) last year.

Peters was reported by Fairfax as saying the former Prime Minister's involvement with China Construction Bank - she's the chairwoman of its local operation and spent six years on the parent company's board before retiring last year - amounts to "economic treachery".

He was also scathing of former National Party leader Don Brash, who is chairing ICBC's New Zealand arm, saying Brash and Shipley were being used to add a veneer of respectability to the Chinese banks.

As one colleague sarcastically noted: "How dare the Chinese banks come and take market share off our Australian banks?"

China has become a global economic powerhouse and its banks - which are some of the world's biggest - are probably just catching up with the international expansion many of their large western counterparts began a long ago.

China Construction Bank, which had a market capitalisation of US$187.8 billion ($216.1 billion) at the end of its last financial year, has also set up operations in countries including Germany, South Africa, Vietnam, Russia, the United States and Australia.

Of course it's an election year and Peters' comments will strike a chord with a segment of the voting public.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

Change is afoot on some of the major sharebrokers' research teams.

Craigs Investment Partners analyst Arie Dekker - who covers stocks including Telecom and the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund - is preparing to shift to First NZ Capital.

He will be replaced at Craigs by Adrian Allbon, currently an analyst at Goldman Sachs.

Geoff Zame, head of institutional equities at Craigs, says the changeover date is yet to be confirmed but might be around the end of September.

It's unclear who will take over Allbon's role at Goldman.

Dekker has been a bit of a star of the research scene lately, taking the analyst of the year title at the Infinz Awards in 2013 and 2014.

Analysts commonly switch between the various brokers.

"Anyone who's any good regularly gets tapped on the shoulder by the competition," says one industry insider.

EBOS STAKE BOOSTED

United States financial services and mutual funds giant Fidelity Investments has lifted its stake in New Zealand's Ebos Group to more than 9 per cent.

Boston-based Fidelity, which holds roughly US$1.7 trillion in mutual fund assets, has been steadily building its holding in the Christchurch-based healthcare distributor since declaring a 5.02 per cent stake in March.

Ebos chief executive Mark Waller says the US company will probably keep its investment in the NZX-listed firm "sub 10 per cent".

It's not Fidelity's style to take cornerstone shareholdings or launch takeover bids, Waller says. That's not to say the investment isn't a big deal for Ebos.


Chief executive of Ebos Group, Mark Waller

"For them [Fidelity] it's a small amount of money but it's significant for us," says Waller, who has referred to the investment as a "vote of confidence" in the New Zealand company.

Shares in Ebos, which quadrupled its revenue through a billion-dollar acquisition of Australian pharmaceutical wholesaler Symbion last year, hit a record $10.50 in March and closed up 2c at $10.02 last night.

PROSPECTUS EXPECTED

Technology firm Eroad is aiming to release the prospectus for its upcoming NZX listing today.

The Auckland-based firm - whose software allows transport companies to manage and pay road user charges and keep track of their fleets - is looking to raise $40 million in new growth capital when it floats on the main board of the exchange next month.

Reporters have been invited to view the prospectus between 12pm and 1pm today and chief executive Steven Newman will be giving interviews.

Eroad's advisers are aiming to get the prospectus registered with the Financial Markets Authority this morning and released to the public today.

First NZ Capital is the sole lead manager for the offer.

IP RISK DOWNPLAYED

An intellectual property lawyer is downplaying the litigation risk technology companies could be facing as they rush to list on the sharemarket.

In a Business Herald article this week, IP expert Paul Adams, of advisory firm EverEdgeIP, said non-practising entities (NPEs) - which hold IP assets and earn revenue through litigation and licensing - had been dramatically increasing their activity and often launched patent infringement suits after initial public offerings (IPOs), when firms tend to be cashed up and keen to avoid publicity that could push their stock prices down.

The combination of market changes, a "relatively high degree of naivety amongst New Zealand tech companies" and IPO activity is creating a "perfect storm" for potential litigation, Adams says.

Earl Gray, of law firm Simpson Grierson, says it's true that IP accounts for a big proportion of the value of high-growth technology companies and patent challenges are being levelled at New Zealand firms with business interests in the United States.

"That does not mean those who are planning to IPO have not done their diligence, nor that there is a significant risk to their value," Gray says.

"In most cases, try-on challenges by NPEs and others can be and have been simply ignored or batted back with good advice."

The success of listed tech businesses such as online accounting software provider Xero is encouraging many privately owned tech firms to go public.

Four of the 10 firms that listed on the NZX last year came from the technology sector.

Two software developers, Gentrack and Serko, have already floated this year and at least four more tech firms will list before the end of the year.

- NZ Herald

Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

A business journalist for more than four years, he also writes the weekly Stock Takes column.Christopher’s main focus is the local sharemarket and issues facing Kiwi investors. He covered manufacturing and retail in his previous Herald role and maintains a special interest in New Zealand’s growing trade relationship with China.

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