Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Money Editor for NZ Herald

Stocktakes: Skycity close to deal?

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Sources say SkyCity could be close to signing off on the controversial conference centre. Photo / Doug Sherring
Sources say SkyCity could be close to signing off on the controversial conference centre. Photo / Doug Sherring

CONFERENCE CENTRE DEAL?

Market sources are speculating that SkyCity Entertainment Group could be close to finalising a deal on building the highly controversial Auckland conference centre.

The casino operator was due to present at the Macquarie Conference in Sydney this week but pulled out at the last minute citing the need to attend important meetings.

SkyCity has not confirmed what the meetings relate to but sources are speculating it is either the Adelaide development project or the Auckland conference centre deal.

The A$350 million Adelaide project involves expanding its casino, building a six-star boutique hotel, new restaurants and adding new gaming machines.

But a hitch in the deal could be carparking. Stock Takes understands SkyCity may have missed out on the tender to build the carpark and will have to reach an agreement to get hold of some of the carparks.

Carparking has been a successful element in its Auckland business where even those who do not want to go to the casino get funnelled through the building in a bid to entice them towards SkyCity's bright lights.

Others hope the meetings could relate to the Auckland deal finally being done.

Investors have waited two years for the deal to get sign-off and are impatient for it to get the green light.

Australian investors are certainly taking more of an interest in the company again with key fund managers Blackrock Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management taking 5 per cent stakes in the past month.

Shares in SkyCity closed down 13c yesterday on $4.40.

FUND OVERVALUED?

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund reached a new high this week on news the dairy co-operative plans to cut 300 jobs - a saving worth $65 million a year.

But analysts are said to be divided over whether the units are too cheap or two expensive.

Forsyth Barr yesterday upgraded its 12 month target price from $6.50 to $7.30 but retains a reduce recommendation based on how far the units have already run.

In their research note Andy Bowley and James Bascand said they had not expected a cost saving programme of that scale and as a result they were upgrading net profit expectations by 2 per cent this year, 4 per cent next year and 7 per cent in year three.

The pair said they expected the job cuts to also have $20 million in associated redundancy costs which would impact on the company's 2013 financial year.

However, further restructuring in Fonterra's Asia Pacific region could also result in Fonterra shutting either its Melbourne or Singapore offices which could save $10 million to $20 million.

But the analysts said the fund had performed very strongly since its listing at $5.50.

"The units appear expensive even considering our above-prospectus forecasts."

Units in the fund closed down 5c yesterday at $8.01.

TECH TALK

Stock Takes hears the institutional book-build for soon to be listed technology company SLI Systems has gone well with an oversubscription rate of two and half times the $27 million capital raising.

The Christchurch firm's prospectus is expected to be available online in the next few days while the document sits with the Financial Markets Authority for final approval.

Hard copy versions won't be available until the FMA rubber stamps it - a process which takes between one and two weeks.

The official offer period could open as soon as the tail end of next week with the listing expected to go ahead by May 31.

Sources say up to 10 institutions have already committed to buying into the business which provides search engine services to online retailers including The Warehouse Group, Mitre 10 and Harrods in Britain.

The timing of the book build, held earlier this week, could not have been better what with technology stock Xero roaring up 20 per cent to hit a new high of $15 on Tuesday.

Market sources say institutions have bought in for fear of missing out and because compared to Xero SLI looks remarkably cheap.

SLI is also far more along its business development path than Xero was when it first came to market. But like Xero, SLI also has a raft of competitors vying for business in the same space.

XERO DRIVERS

Fund managers and analysts are scratching their heads over what is driving up the price of Xero's shares. Speculation is ranging from an industry player building up its stake in the business to foreign investors following Peter Thiel's lead and ploughing into the stock.

The only news out of the company has been a quarterly cashflow statement released on Tuesday as part of its regulatory requirements for being listed on the ASX.

The statement showed customer receipts had increased to $11.4 million as of March 31, up from $10.1 million in the December 31 quarter.

But a $1.3 million increase hardly seems to justify the price rise that occurred on that day alone.

Some are putting the share price growth down to the different way international investors value technology companies compared to how New Zealand institutions make valuation calls.

New Zealand institutions typically use a discounted cashflow model but other countries use comparative ratios to similar stocks or price to earnings multiples.

Foreign technology investors also have the advantage that if they are investing in a whole range a small technology stocks one or two failures might not bother them whereas domestic investors don't have as much choice.

Local fund managers will hope Xero becomes a long-term success story otherwise tech stocks could become as popular as finance companies.

Xero shares closed down 80c yesterday at $12.50.

D-DAY

Today is the final day for retail investors to buy Mighty River Power shares and the Government will be hoping for a last minute surge.

Typically initial public offerings are a last minute affair for retail investors.

Meanwhile, institutions are building up for their part in the process with the book-build due to start on Tuesday and finish with a final price set on Wednesday next week.

There is a strong expectation that the price will be set at the low end of the $2.35 to $2.80 range.

Retail investors may have been put off by the Labour/Greens announcement but foreign investors are said to be pretty keen. Local institutions are still concerned they could face being scaled back in a situation similar to the Fonterra Shareholders Fund.

NEXT MOVE

The Government is ploughing ahead with the next sell-down in its mixed ownership model programme.

It has called for applications for the joint lead manager roles for both Genesis and Meridian.

Goldman Sachs, Macquarie and First NZ Capital are the joint lead managers on Mighty River Power and will be hoping for a good result next week to prove their prowess.

Expectations are that the joint lead managers will be confirmed either late in May or early June.

- NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker

Money Editor for NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor. A business journalist for ten years, she has worked in the UK and NZ for the New Zealand Herald, the National Business Review and a specialist publication on investment products for financial advisors. She is passionate about helping readers learn more about to make their money work for them.

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