App aimed at churchgoers helps boost stock price 340%

Pushpay was one of the more low-profile floats that took place amid last year's flurry of sharemarket listings.

But the mobile payment technology developer has delivered by far the biggest share price gains, the stock rising 340 per cent from the $1 August listing price to close at $4.40 last night.

With a market capitalisation of $220.4 million, Pushpay has overtaken BurgerFuel ($193.8 million) to become the most valuable company on the NZAX junior market.

Pushpay raised $9 million in a private funding round before the listing, last June. That capital raising valued the company at $50 million.

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Read also: Peter Huljich, Graham Shaw join Pushpay board

The Auckland-based firm, founded by Chris Heaslip and Eliot Crowther in 2011, has developed a smartphone app targeted largely at churches for gathering donations.

It is particularly focused on the United States faith sector.

The idea is that if donating is made easier, churchgoers will give more.

A research report commissioned by Pushpay and published in February by Clare Capital, said the firm's shares were tightly held and low liquidity was influencing the share price.

Last week, Pushpay said it had increased its customer base to 996 merchants by March 31 from 602 at the end of December, exceeding its target by 31 per cent.

It reported a net loss of $2.7 million from revenue of $1.6 million in the six months to September 30.

The Clare Capital report said Pushpay would probably require more capital in the next 12 months to fund growth, and it would be beneficial if most of that money was raised outside "the existing core investors".

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"We expect a move [by Pushpay] to the NZX main board in the next 12 months," the report added.

Keep it quiet

Some local fund managers have had to sign confidentiality agreements about the mooted IPO of Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey, meaning that - for now - they can't make media comment on what might become the biggest NZX float this year.

While such agreements aren't unusual, Stock Takes is getting a sense that companies, through their investment banking advisers, are putting increasing pressure on institutional investors to keep information under wraps before official announcements.

Some local fund managers have had to sign confidentiality agreements about the mooted IPO of Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey. Photo / Michael Bradley
Some local fund managers have had to sign confidentiality agreements about the mooted IPO of Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey. Photo / Michael Bradley

You can understand why.

Companies want to be able to test the water with potential investors and, if the feedback proves tepid, quietly abort their listing plans without getting egg on their face.

They also want to avoid information and commentary that might be detrimental to their interests appearing in the media.

The names of prospective issuers were leaking out relatively easily during 2014.

This year - despite a number of IPOs being worked upon behind the scenes - there are only a few names being bandied about, including Carter Holt and CBL Insurance.

Queensland-based Kern Group, which was behind last year's float of early childcare provider Evolve Education Group, is also rumoured to be targeting an IPO of a property roll-up.

A market source said there was "heightened awareness" of confidentiality about pre-IPO processes this year.

"I think you've seen a few issues come to the market that haven't been particularly robust and there's a bit of a view that that's because people have seen behind the corporate veil, not been constrained, and made comments that have depressed enthusiasm in the broader market [for the deals]," he said.

"There's possibly a feeling that comments from people havebeen unhelpful to the process, but that's what capital markets are all about."

Coining it in NZ

A blog post by BlackRock's chief investment strategist might provide some clues to the firm's seemingly increased interest in New Zealand stocks.

The New York company - the world's biggest investor worth more than US$4.5 trillion ($5.9 trillion) in assets under management - emerged as a major shareholder in Fletcher Building and Sky Television last month.

Its other New Zealand investments include mining firm OceanaGold, casino operator SkyCity Entertainment and telco Spark.

In the blog, BlackRock's Russ Koesterich said returns from US stocks this year were well behind those in other parts of the world.

Koesterich wrote: "We think more modest returns are likely ... for US stocks this year, which makes a good case for international diversification."

Trade Me under-invested?

Nikko Asset Management New Zealand's Stuart Williams reckons Trade Me's fat earnings margins suggest the auction website has been under-investing. Photo / NZME.
Nikko Asset Management New Zealand's Stuart Williams reckons Trade Me's fat earnings margins suggest the auction website has been under-investing. Photo / NZME.

You don't normally hear fund managers criticising firms for being too profitable.

However, Nikko Asset Management New Zealand's Stuart Williams reckons Trade Me's fat earnings margins suggest the auction website has been under-investing.

"Trade Me came to market a few years ago with a pretty glossy earnings margin of about 73 per cent," Williams told Nikko's Investment Summit in Auckland this week. "To my way of thinking, they weren't investing adequately in their business in terms of their people, in particular, and their systems."

He said Trade Me's website looked similar today to its appearance three or four years ago.

"That's a result of having under-invested, or under-allocated people and resources, which is manifested in that [high] earnings margin."

But Williams said Trade Me was making progress in fixing the problem.

"In a way they've admitted they haven't had it right because their margin in the year ahead is more likely to be around 60 to 62 per cent and that's because they will be employing 90-odd additional staff to address an issue that I think has already slipped through their fingers."

A Trade Me spokesman said high margins were not necessarily an indicator of under-investment.

They were a sign of an efficient business with low working capital and capital expenditure requirements, he said.

"Our desktop home page is but one part of the puzzle, especially as mobile has become such a huge part of e-commerce in New Zealand. It has changed over the past three years, but it is fair to say that our focus has been elsewhere as we build native mobile apps, roll-out products like shopping cart and improved images for buyers." Trade Me shares closed up 7c at $3.75 last night.