Fliway owner and managing director Duncan Hawkesby says Graeme Hart, his father-in-law and New Zealand's richest man, is a "great guy to have around the dinner table" as the transport and logistics company pushes towards its April 9 NZX main board listing.
Auckland-based Fliway has today registered a prospectus for its initial public offering (IPO), which will raise between $27.3 million and $44.5 million, including about $9 million of new capital that will be used to pay down debt and cover the cost of the float.
The company, likely to be the first to carry out an IPO in New Zealand this year, is expected to have a market capitalisation of $54.5 million to $63.6 million upon listing.
Hawkesby, the son of high-profile former newsman and winemaker John Hawkesby, owns the transport firm with wife Gretchen, the daughter of packaging magnate Hart, whose wealth was estimated at US$7 billion ($9.4 billion) by Forbes this week.
The couple are expected to retain a 30 per cent to 50 per cent shareholding in the company - which is forecasting profit of $4.5 million on revenue of $85.6 million in the current financial year - following the float.
Fliway's roots go back to 1977, when it was established as a transport and customs brokerage.
Hawkesby said Hart provided "seed funding" for his 2006 acquisition of the transport company, which was later repaid.
Asked why Hart had not invested in Fliway, he said: "You'd have to ask Graeme that. I'd never second-guess what Graeme's going to do or where he invests."
But having access to the Rank Group billionaire has its benefits.
"He's a great guy to have around the dinner table to bounce things off," Hawkesby said.
"His support, I suppose, is really more focused to Gretchen and myself as opposed to any specific involvement in this business."
Fliway operates five warehouses and 11 branches around New Zealand.
It has a 50/50 joint venture with US-based freight giant UPS, while also maintaining relationships with logistics operators in Australasia, Europe and North America.
Fliway said it had a client base of more than 1000 customers and delivered more than two million pieces of freight in New Zealand annually.
It also handles roughly 9000 international shipments and 96,000 customs clearances each year, while employing 400 staff and operating 170 vehicles.
Hawkesby said it was the "right time" for the company to carry out an IPO and the listing would help increase Fliway's public profile.
"It's the right way forward for the growth of Fliway," he said.
"We already view ourselves as a reasonably significant player, but there's a lot of scope for us to do more."
Hawkesby said New Zealand's freight and logistics sector was highly fragmented and the company was eyeing potential acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, including a possible move into new industry segments such as dangerous goods and bulk liquid transportation.
The company, whose debt is expected to reduce from $19 million to $12.5 million following the IPO, had a strong track record of cash generation, he said.
Fliway's board is aiming to pay out 50 per cent to 70 per cent of earnings in dividends.
At the top end of that range, the company is expected to have a gross dividend yield of 7 to 8 per cent.
Fliway chief financial officer Jim Sybertsma said the company owned its entire fleet of vehicles, which was helpful if revenue suddenly reduced.
"When there is a revenue decline we can turn those vehicles off - we basically park them up, take the keys out and shut down all of the operating costs," he said.
Sybertsma said the warehousing side of the business could be more challenging during a downturn, as there were property leases to contend with, but Fliway had proven resilient to the global financial crisis through careful management of costs.
"Whilst we were off on revenue by 12 per cent, we maintained our ebitda [operating profit] through that period."
Sybertsma said the company had a broad customer base with multi-sector exposure.
"We do view our customers as sticky," he said. "We've got a distinctive operating model [and] when customers are attracted to it we tend to keep them."
The final pricing of the offer will be set through a book-build process with brokers and institutions on March 17.
The broker firm offer will open on March 18 and close on April 1. There won't be a public pool of shares.
The offer is being managed by Forsyth Barr.