Healthcare stock Ryman may be ready to debut on the top-50 index after three top shareholders sold about 30 million shares.

Matt Willis of ABN Amro said the shareholders had either fully or partially sold their stakes in a placement at $1.55, or a 12 per cent discount.

"The stock has absorbed that quite happily, it's down only 5 per cent so one would consider that a pretty successful outcome," Mr Willis said.

Buyers were a mixture of institutions and retail brokers, and UBS Warburg was the organising broker.

Retail institutions snapped up about 10 per cent of the stock.

Ryman was about No 34 in the market by capitalisation, but could not be included in the top-50 because of its lack of liquidity, or shares available for trading.

"It's always been accepted that the company is a very sound one, I know most independent broker valuations who looked at the stock put it at $2.00-plus, but it's been off the radar screen a bit given the lack of liquidity," Mr Willis said.

Ryman shares last traded down 9c at $1.67.

"I think this is something they've had suggested to them for some time to give the company a profile in the market," Mr Willis said.

"I think the balance of their holdings is locked up for at least six months so they've done it to help the stock's prospects from a share price point of view."

Ryman chairman David Kerr said in a statement that about 78 per cent of the company had previously been held by four shareholders.

Three shareholders will now own between 15 per cent and 16 per cent each -- the Hickman Family Trust, Ngai Tahu Equities, and investment company Emerald Capital.

The balance of 52 per cent is now held by individuals and 15 new institutional investors.

One of the shareholders to sell his stake was managing director John Ryder.

Ryman was listed on the stock exchange in 1999.

"We are hoping that Ryman Healthcare can now be considered for inclusion in the NZX50," Dr Kerr said.

Inclusion in the NZX50 means the company is more likely to be closely studied by investors, increasing demand for the stock and providing a broader shareholder base.

The company recently reported a record full-year profit, for the year ended 31 March 2003, of $15.3 million, up $4 million on a year earlier.

- NZPA