Would-be bank Heartland New Zealand has grown its asset base by $18 million to $2.09 billion through its business loans division and in coming months expects a further boost from already approved rural loans being drawn down.
The timeframe surrounding Heartland's intentions to become a registered New Zealand bank remains unknown, as confidentiality surrounds formal applications to the Reserve Bank.
Craigs Investment Partners broker Chris Timms said Heartland's share price reflected investor sentiment, as they await more details on the banking application.
"This [banking application] is the next big step and what investors are eager to find out more about."
Since listing in February 2011, Heartland shares initially traded at 88c then steadily declined to an all-time low of 44c early last month, before retracing some losses to trade around 53c yesterday.
Last Thursday, Heartland shares had their largest number of trades this year, with 680,000 shares changing hands in 54 transactions, which saw the price lift from 49c to briefly 53c during the day.
Shares closed at 53c yesterday.
Timms said yesterday Heartland had achieved 11 of 12 points on a "to do list", since early 2011, including merging companies and loan books, exiting the Crown guarantee umbrella and gaining an investment rating.
Timms said Heartland's "11 milestones met" should not be overlooked and the stock was undervalued at present.
Heartland chief executive Jeff Greenslade said in recent financial reports Heartland's overall lending book had increased slightly during the third quarter to $2.093 billion, compared with $2.075 billion at the beginning of the quarter.
"This was pleasing in a credit constrained environment, particularly as the net increase of $18 million is largely attributable to growth in the business division," he said in a market update released earlier this month.
For the three financial quarters ending March 31, Heartland booked an after-tax profit of $15.1 million, which included a one-off deferred tax benefit of $6.2 million.
Greenslade said the improved margins for the third quarter's trading were due mainly to a decrease in cost of funds, following expiry of the Crown guarantee scheme in December, and a change in lending product mix.
Since expiry of the Crown guarantee scheme on December 31, Heartland had surplus liquidity. The $480 million liquidity, made up of cash, liquid assets and unused funding lines, meant it had $177 million more than required under Heartland Building Society's trust deed.
- Otago Daily TimesBy Simon Hartley