Higher interest rates and more cautious banks are driving New Zealand's biggest listed companies to look elsewhere for funding.

Research by law firm Chapman Tripp has found of the top 25 listed companies on the NZX just seven were entirely reliant on bank funding.

The report found more limited availability of bank funding in 2017-18 and a desire for diversity had motivated a number of listed companies to look elsewhere for some of their debt funding.

"While bank funding continued to be available in 2018, corporates were very conscious of the need for a range of funding sources," the report stated.

Advertisement

Cathryn Barber, a partner at the law firm, said the moves were in line with global trends.

"This is consistent with global trends where large companies are issuing bonds and decreasing their dependence on banks' economic issues."

While bigger companies used a range of funding sources the situation was almost reversed for the next 25 largest companies where most - 18 out of 25 - were solely reliant on bank debt.

Last year was a big year for listed companies raising debt on the market and Chapman Tripp is predicting another two to three companies will enter the debt capital markets for the first time in 2019.

"However, most entities still obtain a fairly high proportion of their debt from New Zealand banks, meaning they remain reliant on banks.

"That will continue in the next 12 months given the flexibility of bank funding compared to the other sources and the relative ease of obtaining bank funding in New Zealand."

That was unlikely to change while bank funding remained available, the report noted.

It also found that most of the top 50 companies had more than one bank providing debt funding.

Advertisement

"Some listed entities have only one bank but we would expect that to change as these businesses grow."