Do you care who made your butter and toast this morning? Do you care who made the packet the butter was wrapped in? Probably not.

But if you're interested in what's happening with the economic recovery, then a possible change in ownership of the country's biggest food group and the sale of its biggest packaging company should be something of a sign.

The great game of corporate musical chairs is under way again.

Food and packaging are two of the industries most deeply embedded in our daily lives. It is no coincidence that New Zealand's richest man, Graeme Hart, has been a big investor in both.

Advertisement

Hart is selling much of the Carter Holt business he bought in 2005, at the same time as Goodman Fielder, the food group he sold in 2005, has received an unsolicited takeover offer.

The specific timing may be a coincidence, but it is not surprising.

Merger and acquisition activity has long been a measure of economic vitality and you can bet it is only going increase in the next few years as an appetite for risk returns.

Hart is a master of the game. Having hunkered down and focused on costs while the market hibernated through the global financial crisis, he is back in the game and likely to be working through his assets systematically to realise the maximum profit by selling into a hot market.

Meanwhile, opportunists on the buy side with access to funding are looking to snap up any perceived bargains on capital markets around the world.

It is important that shareholders don't let anything go cheaply. This is just the start of the economic cycle, there is plenty of upside to come for investors. But the smart ones will keep an ear on the music and an eye on the closest chair.