Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Stock Takes: Xero makes Aussie debut

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Xero is joining a handful of NZX-listed corporates in venturing across the ditch. Photo / NZH
Xero is joining a handful of NZX-listed corporates in venturing across the ditch. Photo / NZH

Accountancy software firm Xero yesterday joined a short list of New Zealand companies to dual list in Australia.

Xero chief financial officer Ross Jenkins said one of the primary reasons for listing across the ditch was the chance for its 1500 accounting and book keeping partners to more easily invest in the company.

The company had also received interest from institutional investors.

"There aren't many opportunities to invest in high growth technology stocks there."

He doubted the Australian listing would take over from the New Zealand listing any time soon.

"We have been around in New Zealand for five years and have got strong investor support here."

The company has around 2500 shareholders on its register in New Zealand and only a small minority of those are currently Australian.

"We would expect most of the trading of stock would come on the NZX."

But he admits that could change over the next three to five years.

"We don't have any big expectations in terms of a massive increase in liquidity [in Australia]."

But he said it was the next step in the company's evolution.

Just a handful of NZX-listed corporates have ventured across the ditch, with mixed success. In June The Warehouse pulled its ASX listing due to a low level of liquidity and in a bid to cut the additional listing, compliance and admin costs associated with it.

Jenkins said he had confidence in the success of Xero's listing because its business in Australia had tripled in the last year and it had a large client base there.

"We are not doing it for liquidity or investment reasons - it's about providing easy access to trade in Xero shares."

Xero closed up 35c at $5.80 on the NZX last night and was trading at A$4.48 on the ASX when Stock Takes went to press.

SHARE DEAL

The Warehouse shareholders face an interesting proposal at their upcoming annual general meeting on November 23.

They will have to vote on letting Sir Stephen Tindall acquire one million shares from former managing director Ian Morrice.

Although the deal will only increase Tindall and his associates' holding from 50.31 per cent to 50.63 per cent it must be voted on under the Takeovers Code.

As a result The Warehouse has had to commission an independent advisers report which has been sent out to investors.

Stock Takes can't help thinking it must be a bit frustrating to have to go to that expense for just a 0.32 percentage point change in shares.

But the company was ambivalent about it.

The board secretary said it was merely a procedural matter which The Warehouse had to go through and it was "not a major cost" in the scheme of things. She declined to say how much the company had spent only saying it was not significant.

Tindall initially transferred the shares to Morrice in 2004 at a purchase price of $3.76 million. Tindall lent the money to Morrice to buy the shares with the debt due to be repaid in November 2009.

But the repayment date got extended in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The debt is now due to be repaid on November 30.

Tindall also lent Morrice a further $335,000, although the agreed total debt was set at $3.701 million in November last year.

No money will change hands as the pair agreed last year that the transfer of the shares to Tindall would cancel the entire debt.

Morrice, who stepped down from the top job in May 2011, seems to be getting a good deal.

At today's trading price 1 million shares are worth around $3.16 million. The Warehouse shares closed on $3.16 yesterday.

TOWER WINDFALL

Tower shareholders will be lining up to get a share of the likely $100 million plus payout the company is to make after selling its medical insurance business to Australian listed specialist nib.

The deal is expected to settle by the end of the year and shareholders are hoping a payout could come as early as February - around the same time as the company's annual general meeting.

Devon Fund Management principal Paul Glass, who holds shares in Tower, said the $102 million was a good price for the business and a return of that level would be significant for a company whose current market capitalisation was around $520 million.

Morningstar analyst David Ellis estimates the return could be around 38c per share although he has a mixed view of the deal.

"While we think the sale price is low, we are pleased Tower New Zealand will be returning the sale proceeds to shareholders."

One investor has already moved to take advantage of the situation with the Accident Compensation Corporation snapping up a 5.12 per cent shareholding just days after the sale announcement.

MORE CHANGE?

Tower's sale of its medical insurance business is likely to be the first step in breaking the company up with the insurer under pressure from its major shareholder Guinness Peat Group.

GPG is in the process of winding up and has made it clear it wants to get its money out of Tower. Some are picking the life insurance and investment parts of the business could be next on block. The general insurance arm could be a harder sell given its exposure to Christchurch.

There are also expectations from some in the market that new Tower director Michael Stiassny could take over the chairmanship.

Stiassny joined the board last month.

Tower at present only has an interim chairman after its long-serving chairman Bill Falconer stepped down in September.

Shares in Tower closed on $1.93 yesterday.

POWERING DOWN

Morningstar is recommending investors reduce their shareholding in Vector after the Commerce Commission released its draft decision on gas pipeline services.

The Comcom has proposed a price reduction of between 16 per cent and 25 per cent for gas transmission and distribution for Vector starting from July 1 next year.

The price drop proposal has also come after a poor performance for the company's first quarter in its gas and electricity business.

Morningstar Nachi Moghe believes the company will face a one-off hit to its earnings from the pricing change in its 2014 financial year and is also forecasting a drop in net profit from $192 million to $174 million for the company's 2013 financial year.

As a result Moghe has dropped his fair valuation of Vector's shares from $2.60 to $2.45.

Vector's shares have traded as high as $2.93 last month but have since fallen to around $2.78. They closed on $2.79 yesterday.

NEW FACE

The NZX has finally appointed someone to its new Auckland-based head of cash markets role.

Amelia Wong comes from boutique fund manager Mint Asset Management but has previously worked in New York for Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital and Sanford C. Bernstein.

Wong's role will include managing the NZX's relationship with listed companies, fund managers and investors.

Under former chief executive Mark Weldon some had accused the NZX of failing to have any relationship with issuers. It's an area new boss Tim Bennett is keen to improve on. Wong starts the job on December 10.

REPLACING F&P

Steel & Tube shares received a small boost this week on news that the company will join the NZX50 index following the success of Haier's full takeover bid for Fisher & Paykel Appliances.

Trading volume in the company has been boosted significantly of late after Arrium's decision to sell its 50.3 per cent stake last month.

The inclusion in the NZX50, which starts as of Wednesday, could see trade increase again as the company will now be in the sights of a lot more institutional investment managers.

Shares in Steel & Tube closed on $2.18 yesterday.

- NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

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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