Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business Editor

Stock takes: Quick break

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Mark Weldon is waving goodbye to the NZX and heading to the South Island. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mark Weldon is waving goodbye to the NZX and heading to the South Island. Photo / Natalie Slade

Departing NZX boss Mark Weldon won't be having a big bash tonight to celebrate his send-off - he says that would feel too much like a eulogy.

Besides he has booked himself on a 6am ferry tomorrow. He must be keen to get down to the South Island to that new winery - Olssens Vineyard in Bannockburn near Cromwell - he has bought.

New NZX boss Tim Bennett starts on Monday.

RALLY REVERSED

The rally that took place in Rakon's share price at the start of the year was short lived.

Shares in the components maker hit a low of 44c in December, but gained 42 per cent to hit 67c by the end of January, prompting a "please explain" notice from the NZX.

The company, which has been struggling with the twin evils of a high dollar and tepid demand, responded by saying it was in compliance with its continuous disclosure requirements.

But since the end of January the stock has shed most of its gains, closing at 51c last night.

It's difficult to pin down exactly what prompted the rally.

Maybe investors, refreshed by their summer holidays, were looking for cheap stocks to buy during the first weeks of this year.

The landmark high of $5.46 that Rakon shares hit back in 2007 now seems a very distant memory.

The company has given full-year earnings guidance in the range of $14 million to $18 million - which would be a reduction of up to 43 per cent on the prior year - and will report its annual result on May 17.

NEW PLATFORM

One of the plans in the pipeline for the NZX is a new trading platform for small companies which would have a lower level of disclosure.

Under current securities law the NZX is only allowed to run platforms that have continuous disclosure. This means any factor which will have a material impact on the company's bottom line has to be reported to the market.

Weldon says for a small company a drop of 5 per cent might only be a $50,000 change and continuous disclosure can be off-putting.

He is hoping a rewrite of the law this year will give the NZX a window to apply for a waiver to allow it to launch the platform. Getting new companies on to the exchange is a challenge when so many New Zealand businesses are at the small end of town.

MOVING NORTH

The NZX has a small office in Auckland but Weldon says he wouldn't be surprised if more of the NZX's functions move north in the future.

While it is important to have a Wellington base in terms of policy influencing, it's hard to be a corporate regulator from a distance. It's an increasing trend.

All the major banks now have their head offices in Auckland as does Telecom and Fletcher Building.

Investment watchdog the Financial Markets Authority will have more staff in its Auckland office than its Wellington HQ as of the end of next month.

TOUGH WEEK

It has been a tough week for financial services company Pyne Gould Corporation.

First its auditor resigns and then the FMA admits it is "actively engaging" with the company over related party loans.

The rumour mill is running wild over suggestions that someone within the company told the NZX and the FMA about its problems.

On Monday the FMA said it had been making inquiries over the past two weeks. It's not a good look for former managing director John Duncan who resigned last Thursday. Duncan won't talk to the media and neither will chairman Bryan Mogridge.

PGC has long had a reputation as having transparency issues - there is even an anonymous blogsite set up by investors in December last year calling for greater transparency.

The appointment of new independent director Greg Bright hasn't impressed market players either. Critics say the former Sydney Morning Herald journalist doesn't have the right background.

UNUSUAL MOVES

Milford Asset Management's Mark Warminger says in his 14 years in the market he can't remember another time when an auditor has resigned from a company.

"For an auditor to resign - it's a very unusual situation. They normally resign after an issue has been made public."

PGC's share price closed steady at 33c yesterday.

UP IN ARMS

The decision by the Crown to give AMP Capital the ability to own up to 15 per cent of Chorus has got some worried that exemptions for foreign ownership in the proposed state-owned enterprise floats may also be easy to acquire.

But Stock Takes reckons the concern could be overdone. AMP Capital might be owned by an Australian parent but most of the money it manages is owned by Kiwis.

AMP Capital's head of equities Guy Elliffe says close to 90 per cent of the money it has invested in Chorus is from New Zealanders coming via superannuation savings, KiwiSaver and other money it manages on behalf of AMP Financial Services.

The last substantial shareholder notice by AMP shows it as owning 8.96 per cent as of March 26. Any movement of 1 per cent or more would require another notice.

Elliffe would not be drawn on how much of Chorus it intended to buy but said the company obviously wanted the flexibility to go over 10 per cent.

He would not comment on what AMP put in its application to convince the Crown to give approval. "It's a private discussion between us and Treasury," he said.

Elliffe said the discretion to go over 10 per cent was built into Chorus' constitution.

Chorus has reached a high of $3.70 since its split from Telecom and yesterday closed at $3.52.

- NZ Herald

Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business Editor

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business 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 writes the Stock Takes column on investing in NZ and is passionate about helping readers learn more about money and investment.

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