Z Energy, named the Deloitte & AJ Park Company of the Year in this year's Top 200 awards represents one of New Zealand's remarkable listed company success stories.
The prospect of a locally owned and operated service station chain having the scale and reach that Z Energy has achieved would have seemed far fetched a decade ago.
The company was born out of the vision of Wellington investment firm Infratil and their leader the late Lloyd Morrison's unashamed belief in New Zealand's ability to own major strategic assets and control its own destiny.
Infratil, in partnership with the New Zealand Superfund, engineered the joint buyout of Shell NZ's retail assets in 2010 for $696.5 million.
It quickly adopted a new name as Z Energy -- a move that required the revamp of 226 service stations in one of the country's biggest rebranding exercises.
It was then floated on the NZX in 2013 raising $860m on the sale of a 60 per cent stake -- valuing the company at $1.4 billion.
After the successful float, the story from there on was one of steady progress and successful execution of its strategy until it took another huge leap this year.
In May, Z Energy's acquisition of Caltex for $758m took the company's market capitalisation to more than $3 billion.
In November, the company raised its first-half dividend as it posted a 22 per cent gain in earnings and a 57 per cent jump in fuel volumes following its acquisition of Chevron New Zealand's Caltex and Challenge brands.
Profit rose to $82m in the six months ended September 30, from $67m a year earlier, the Wellington-based company said. Sales climbed to $1.66 billion from $1.3b. It also lifted its earnings guidance for 2017, saying it was far enough into the integration to make a more accurate assessment.
The Deloitte Top 200 judges said Z Energy was a very deserving winner of Company of the Year because it made a huge acquisition with the purchase of Caltex and has delivered integration benefits which have exceeded market expectations.
Watch: Chief Executive of the Year winner - Mike Bennetts:
The judges also commended Z for being "incredibly transparent" and providing a monthly report on the integration process.
Importantly, the company had successfully evolved a Kiwi success story around the Z brand.
"This has resonated with New Zealanders and they have delivered on their promise to the community," they said.
They are a highly transparent company in terms of their strategies and performance.
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"They are a highly transparent company in terms of their strategies and performance," added Top 200 judge Neil Paviour-Smith, managing director of Forsyth Barr. "They have outstanding leadership across the business and have maintained outstanding relationships with their stakeholders.
In the year under review, Z Energy have grown total shareholder returns by around 50 per cent; Z shares are up around 14 per cent this year and 60 per cent since the start of 2015.
Watch: Young Executive of the Year winner - James Bergin:
The company was conceived by people taking a long term strategic view and it has certainly retained that focus on the future.
With the big merger largely completed by Christmas the focus will now go on to two different strategic plans, says CEO Mike Bennetts.
"There's the work we need to do between now and the end of the decade for us to be returning to shareholders and having happy customers ... and that path way is pretty straight-forward."
"But we're also doing a lot of work around what we call: "What is Next".
What next, by Z's own admission, is some seriously large scale disruption for a petrol retailer -- electric cars.
We're in the energy business so we're somewhat agnostic about what we sell. We don't go around drilling for oil and gas so we have no upstream investment.
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"What does the 2020 to 2030 period look like?" asks Bennetts.
"That's when you start to see a greater penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) and many of those pose threats to our business. So we're very much in that space. The management of the company can take care of the next two to four years. It's the executive and the board that need to be thinking about the decade after that."
Z Energy has taken commendable approach to the disruption risk and Bennetts talks about needing to be clear of any potential "Kodak" moment.
"Global mass adoption of EVs is inevitable," Z Energy states in an October report.
Having honestly acknowledged this key point, the company is preparing itself to adapt based on several different scenarios for the uptake of EVs. The company already has six electric vehicle charging stations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Watch: Company of the Year finalist - Spark:
Z is "agnostic" about what sort of energy is flowing in the forecourt, Bennetts told Herald Energy reporter Grant Bradley earlier this year.
"We're in the energy business so we're somewhat agnostic about what we sell. We don't go around drilling for oil and gas so we have no upstream investment."
The company is about to start producing commercial scale biodiesel, has tendered for a jet biofuel project for Air New Zealand, and dipped its toes in the EV charging market in a handful of sites.
As one of the top 10 largest fully listed local stocks on the NZX, it is now in many ways a different company to the one Bennetts took charge of in 2010. But the size doesn't bother him -- "It's mostly adding extra zeros to the numbers you're dealing with anyway."
One of the biggest challenges is to stay grounded and customer and staff focused in a world where bigger is often perceived as badder, Bennetts added.
Spark Managing director Simon Moutter says, "it's really great to have the business now, back in growth, with a fantastic network, performing strongly in the market and customers preferring our brands over others and that creates the possibility of us doing an even better job for all New Zealanders and making a really big contribution to the success of our country over the next few years."
The last financial year was a turning point for Spark as it continued to reposition and transform its business. The growing parts of its business (mobile and platform IT) are now bigger than the declining parts (fixed line voice and legacy data).
Total revenues of $3.497 billion for the year ending June were slightly down, however after adjusting for the impact of prior year business sales, changes to Chorus charges, and acquisitions this year, Spark's total operating revenues and other gains were actually up 2.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
Watch: Company of the Year finalist - Restaurant Brands:
Says Moutter, "we're at the epicentre of digital disruption and technology change, from here forward we've got a job to do to leverage the platform we've created...to bring more capability to New Zealanders, more digital services that will help people live more amazing lives or help our business customers build better businesses and be more globally successful. We're determined to make a real contribution to the country and to make New Zealand a better place to live and work and build great future for our children."
Spark has clinched the leading market share in mobile revenue this year, achieving $1.134b revenues for FY16, up 11.3 per cent for the full year, compared with Vodafone's recently published estimate of $1.065 billion in revenues.
Moutter said the programme was completed on time and on budget, and it laid the platform for the delivery of excellent digital customer services.
In broadband, a focus on higher-value plans and adding customer value through digital services, such as Lightbox and smart living solution Morepork, has helped a 5.4 per cent growth in revenues.
The Deloitte Top 200 judges said Spark had clearly out-performed its competitors. "It was delivering on its strategy and had executed a leadership transition late this year to position the company for its future."
Finalist: Restaurant Brands
Restaurant Brands under CEO Russel Creedy's leadership continues to go from strength to strength in a "very tough and competitive market", say the Deloitte Top 200 judges.
"Restaurant Brands NZ has had an outstanding year delivering great returns to shareholders based on the franchises that they operate," the judges said. "The company has expanded into Australia and has done that successfully.
"Their focus on excellence has shown through in all facets of their business and they have delivered outperformance in terms of returns to shareholders."
Restaurant Brands' store numbers now total 215, comprising 173 in New Zealand and a further 42 stores in Australia.
For the 28 weeks ending September 12, 2016, Restaurant Brands produced unaudited net profit after tax of $13.5 million (13.3 cents per share), compared with NPAT of $13.4m for the previous half year.
After allowing for the impact of non-trading items, the underlying net profit after tax was $15.9m (15.7c per share), up $2.8m or 21.7 per cent on prior year. The group posted total sales of $256.2m, up $46.2m or 22 per cent on the first half with the benefit of $43.6m in sales from the recent KFC acquisition of QSR Pty in Australia.
New Zealand operations saw a strong performance from KFC (up $4.2m) with newly-built Carl's Jr. stores assisting in delivering another $1m in sales for that brand.
Total operating revenue was $266.9m, up $48.5m on prior year. Same store sales were up 1.4 per cent (rolling over plus 6.7 per cent from last year) with KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks Coffee all showing growth.