Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

NZX 'could do better' on communication

John Hawkins, new chairman of the Shareholders Association, at his home in Rothesay Bay, Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Hawkins, new chairman of the Shareholders Association, at his home in Rothesay Bay, Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

Market participants say the NZX has done very well as a business but it could be doing a lot more to improve its relationships and communication with listed companies and investors.

NZ Shareholders Association chairman John Hawkins said the NZX had been successful as a commercial enterprise but less so at providing information in a helpful way to the public.

"Commercially I think they have been pretty successful. But I think at times they have been overly concerned at a potential loss of income, to the detriment of making sure information is freely available to investors."

Hawkins said the NZX had been slow to take on the new world of disclosure. "We had a long battle with them to get them to change the 20-minute delay rule (on stock exchange announcements) - it may not have been a big thing but it did create a perception that some people had an unfair advantage."

Hawkins said the NZX website was not user-friendly though it had been recently revamped.

Initially you could not look up a company without knowing its ticker code and there were also problems viewing interactive charts. He hopes the NZX's new chief executive will improve the website and ensure new investment. "What we would like to see is Tim Bennett putting whatever resources and skills he has into trying to encourage new listings. That's not easy particularly easy in the current environment."

Mark Laing, a NZ director on the board of the Australasian Investor Relations Association, wants the NZX to adopt a more "inclusive and communicative approach" with market participants. He said a lack of liquidity continued to be a major obstacle for offshore investors investing here.

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid said being listed had been good for his company. "It lifted our own standards and allowed us to place pressure on certain parts of the business in order to satisfy shareholder expectations." But the NZX needed to become far more customer friendly by getting out and meeting its members.

"That would allow them to understand what we are doing and for us to understand what they are planning."

Another good step would be to simplify the listing rules and rewrite them in laymen's terms, he said. Substantial shareholder notices were "just too difficult" for people to understand.

Braid said the NZX needed to enhance its profile in order to attract more companies to list. "It's sort of got itself on a podium. It's perhaps a little scary for companies. If you took a look at the listing rules as a business owner that would probably scare you off."

Frank Aldridge, chairman of broker industry body the Securities Industries Association said it had a good relationship with the NZX. "They attend our meetings and we would expect that to continue." Aldridge said he had had discussions with the incoming chief executive."I don't know what changes he will make - I expect we will see that in the first 100 days, six months. Mark has done a great job."

One bone of contention with the broker industry has been fee increases. Aldridge said fees had increased as the services and technology improved but the industry would like fee increases to abate or for new services to be added. He would also like to see lower staff turnover at the exchange.

"We have seen a large staff turnover particularly in key positions. The broking firms have key contacts - they want them to have the expertise and that takes time."

Aldridge said it was important the relationship between the broking community and the exchange continued to be strong with plenty of communication and transparency. "I don't know Tim but he has been very engaging and perceptive - if that approach continues it should be good."

The exchange has also been criticised in the past for failing to bring many new listings to the market. But Aldridge said the NZX's role was to run an efficient market to have rules which set down what companies could and could not do. It was down to the brokers what business was brought in.

"Trade Me and Summerset have been very good for the market; they have provided good momentum. I think it will spur the market on although it will still be a little quiet until the SOE floats. Hopefully they will prompt others to list. There has been a long gap between IPOs of any size."

Aldridge said investors were looking for opportunities.

"I think sentiment has improved from October last year. Investor sentiment is quite positive but still cautious. There is still a lot of cash on the sidelines. When opportunities come a long like Mighty River Power and Fonterra - I think demand will be pretty strong. It would be great to see some other things come to market."

- NZ Herald

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