Tamsyn Parker 's Opinion

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Stock takes: Turning point

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Mark Adamson is stepping into a challenging role with Fletcher Building in charge of the Christchurch rebuild programme. Photo / Richard Robinson
Mark Adamson is stepping into a challenging role with Fletcher Building in charge of the Christchurch rebuild programme. Photo / Richard Robinson

Capital market participants are watching to see how two major decisions will be made over the next few days which could set the tone of the markets for years to come.

The mixed ownership model bill is expected to face its third reading in Parliament either today or early next week.

It has been strongly opposed by the political left but is expected to squeak through paving the way for the partial floating of state-owned enterprises.

Preparations for Mighty River Power, the first off the block, have been progressing alongside the bill but its passing would allow its sell-down to hit top gear.

The other major decision is Fonterra's vote on Monday to set up TAF - its Trading Among Farmers scheme. The scheme involves farmers buying and selling shares through a market, rather than via the co-operative, and is due to be launched in November.

If both went belly up it could spell very bad news for New Zealand's capital markets.

SUPER JOB

Speculation is mounting over who will be appointed to the New Zealand equities role at the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

The fund wants to manage more of its New Zealand share investments in-house and has been looking for a fund manager and several analysts to take on the work.

At the end of May Matt Whineray, the fund's head of investments, told the Herald the $19 billion fund should have a team confirmed within a month.

But a spokeswoman for the fund said this week it was still going through the process.

Industry players are watching to see what comes of the move although many are now suggesting an appointment will not go ahead because of the difficulties with attracting the right person.

The potential candidate would need strong local experience but most of those who fit that criteria are either firmly ensconced in a boutique or larger fund management house.

Devon Funds Management, Milford Asset Management and AMP Capital already manage money on behalf of the fund.

FLETCHER BOSS

Questions have been raised about former Fletcher Building's executive Mark Binns' decision to leave the company last year after Jonathan Ling's stepdown from the top job this week.

Binns, who had been with Fletcher for 22 years and was the only continuous divisional chief executive since the company listed in 2001, would have had a strong chance at the top job.

He was widely tipped to take over from Ralph Waters six years ago but missed out to Aussie contender Ling.

Perhaps he didn't want to stick around to see the writing on the wall for a second time? Binns was made chief executive of Meridian Energy in October.

British-born Mark Adamson was appointed to head up Fletcher Building on Monday. He has been with the firm since 2007.

BUILDING CHALLENGES

Adamson is stepping into a challenging role with Fletcher being in charge of the Christchurch rebuild programme.

House building figures out of Australia this week could also prove a challenge to its Australian business.

New home starts plunged 12.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, far outweighing analyst expectations of a 2.3 per cent fall.

For the year to date house building has been down 24.5 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Shares in Fletcher Building closed down 18c yesterday at $6.03.

HAT-TRICK?

With Fletcher Building and Air New Zealand this week both announcing new chief executive replacements, all eyes are turning to who will head up Auckland International Airport.

Current chief Simon Moutter is leaving to head back to Telecom. He is expected to start his new job in September.

Chief financial officer Simon Robertson will become acting chief executive at the airport when Moutter leaves.

Auckland Airport chairwoman Joan Withers has said there are possible internal candidates while an international search would focus predominantly on Australasia.

UPS AND DOWNS

Halfway through the year it's always a good time to take a look at which stocks have been the best and worst performers this year in the NZX's top 50 index.

Guinness Peat Group has topped the year to date for worst performance with a drop of nearly 19 per cent in its share price. The investment business is in sell-down mode and has said it plans to undertake a share buy-back to help boost its price.

Perhaps more surprising is rural supplies company PGG Wrightson. Its share price is down 18 per cent for the year to date.

Wrightson's share price hit 29c on Monday - the lowest point it has ever reached since listing.

Third worst is sleep apnoea mask maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, down 16 per cent. At the start of the year its share price was at $2.52. Yesterday it closed on $1.92.

At the other end of the scale technology companies Diligent Board Member Services and Xero have respectively had share price rises of 81 per cent and 76 per cent.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances comes in third with an increase of 50 per cent rising from 36c to close on 52.5c yesterday.

SELL DOWN

Fairfax's decision to sell down a further 15 per cent in online auction business Trade Me this week came as no surprise to market players.

But some had expected it to happen a few weeks earlier. Perhaps that's why Trade Me's share price has been falling of late.

Shares in Trade Me hit $4.07 at the end of May but then went into a steep dive falling to $3.56 last Friday, just before the deal was done.

Fairfax sold the additional 15 per cent at $3.46 per share - a 10c per share discount. The stake was sold to a mix of Australian and New Zealand institutional investors with no one emerging as a substantial shareholder.

Fairfax has said it has no plans to sell the rest of its 51 per cent stake in the business. But market players suggest the media company may be forced to sell-down Trade Me to shore up the rest of its media business.

Market sentiment is very positive for Trade Me.

Shares in the online retailer, issued at $2.70 in December, closed down 2c yesterday at $3.74.

- 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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