The Capital Markets Development Task Force noted in its 2009 report that NZ's capital markets were small by international standards relative to the size of the economy. How are we faring, five years on?
The capitalisation of the NZSX is presently $102 billion, or 43 per cent of GDP, a substantial uplift from 2008 when the market capitalisation, post the Global Financial Crisis was $47 billion or 27 per cent of GDP. Though an improvement, this still ranks New Zealand third lowest among member countries of the World Federation of Exchanges and the market capitalisation in NZ was around 60 per cent of GDP in the mid 1990's.
What have been factors in the market's revival and how could we better facilitate innovation?
A vibrant capital market is a cornerstone to a high performing economy. Whilst some market participants have grasped the opportunities afforded by regulatory reform it would great to see many more issuers and advisers utilising the innovation now possible through the FMCA.
The recommendations of the taskforce's report have been largely adopted and reflected in policy reforms including establishment of the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and passage of the Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMCA). These reforms are directed at making a more efficient market and improving investor confidence.
The Government's Mixed Ownership Model (MoM) programme has been a significant factor in the market's revival, where the three gentailers (energy companies) are now capitalised at $12 billion. Councils should also consider listing and part-privatising their infrastructure assets including ports and airports. Aside from the benefits of releasing cash for other, high-priority infrastructure spending, listing assists the cornerstone shareholder through market disciplines and monitoring performance of the listed business.
It is encouraging that in its Long Term Plan consultation document, the Christchurch City Council is proposing a $750 million release of capital from its commercial arm Christchurch City Holdings, the parent company of key assets such as Lyttelton Port Company, Orion, and Christchurch International Airport. Auckland Council also faces challenges funding transport infrastructure.
The market has benefited from growth in assets under management by the NZ Super Fund, ACC and in Kiwisaver funds, which now amount to around $83 billion in aggregate. However only around 10 per cent of Kiwisaver investments are typically allocated to the NZ share market. This is partly due to the default Kiwisaver funds being invested in conservative funds, mostly comprised of bonds rather than equities. INFINZ has advocated that the "life-cycle" approach should be applied to conservative funds whereby the asset allocation varies with age, reducing the risk profile as investors approach retirement.
The listing of Xero (itself presently capitalised at $2.5 billion) has blazed a trail for subsequent listings of technology growth stocks which in 2014 included Vista Group, ERoad, Orion Health, Serko and Gentrack. But what more can be done to assist companies with capitalisations of less than $50 million?
Enter the Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMCA). Both crowdfunding and peer-to-peer platforms can now apply to the FMA to become 'licensed intermediaries'. This status allows companies to use such platforms to issue shares or raise money from the public without having to go to the expense of supplying a full product disclosure statement. There is a $2 million annual cap on how much equity a company may raise or a borrower may borrow.
Three Equity crowd funding platforms have been established which have collectively raised $6m to date. Harmoney, a peer to peer lending platform, says it has $100 million to lend in its first year of operation. A simplified process is also available for small personalised offers. To qualify, the offer must seek to raise no more than $2 million in any 12-month period and must be limited to 20 investors -- each of whom is connected personally or professionally to the issuer.
The flexibility to establish lower-cost platforms for raising equity is another innovation the act facilitates. The NZX has established the NXT market, targeting businesses with market capitalisations between $10 million and $100 million. To simplify the initial public offering (IPO) process and reduce listing costs, it is proposed that businesses will not be required to provide prospective (forecast) financial information or full continuous disclosure. The NZX is reported to be talking to a number of potential issuers.
The FMCA also permits "low doc" offers of the same class of securities where they are already listed on the market, given that these companies will already be under obligations of continuous disclosure. This will lower the costs of issuance and thereby the cost of capital and by shortening the time elapsed till placement, reduces the risk of mispricing. It will also facilitate smaller and more frequent capital raises. This would enable a growing company to raise capital on better terms as it proves itself, and for more established companies has afforded the ability to build a debt portfolio of varying tenor. Auckland International Airport was the first to make a debt offering under these provisions, with a $150 million fixed-rate bond offer in May 2014.
A vibrant capital market is a cornerstone to a high performing economy.
Though some market participants have grasped the opportunities afforded by regulatory reform and its early days, it would be great to see many more issuers and advisers using the innovation now possible through the FMCA. Let's embrace the change.
INFINZ industry awards
A record turnout of more than 800 guests is expected at Auckland's Langham Hotel this evening for the annual INFINZ Industry Awards. At the black tie dinner, the capital markets industry will recognise the success and professional standards of leading participants.
INFINZ presents awards in corporate treasury, banking, funds management, sharebroking, equity analysis, investor communications, best debt issue and debt deal and equity deal and for the best mergers and acquisitions transaction. A Leadership Award is also presented.
NZME. is media partner for the INFINZ Industry Awards. The NZ Herald's The Business is sponsor of the Institutional Banking Innovation Award.
INFINZ, with more than 900 members, is the leading professional body for those operating in New Zealand's wholesale financial and capital markets. www.infinz.com.
• Jim McElwain is the Executive Director of the Institute of Finance Professionals New Zealand Inc (INFINZ).