Foreign ownership of the New Zealand stockmarket rose in 2017, according to research by wealth manager JBWere.

The finance firm's annual Equity Ownership Survey found offshore investors pushed foreign ownership to 37.9 per cent from 36.3 per cent in 2016. That's highest level since 2009.

But the rise was largely driven by "the remarkable uptake of both a2 milk and Xero," JBWere head of NZ equities Rickey Ward notes.

The impact of those two was so large that if they were excluded there would have been a 0.6 per cent decrease in offshore ownership.


International interest in a2 and Xero had offset a broader trend which saw offshore investors move away from the kind of yield-based equities which dominate the New Zealand market, Ward said.

In other words, as risk aversion slides around the world the appetite for low-growth stocks with "bond-like qualities" was diminishing.