Finance Minister Bill English proved to be quite the joker at a major finance industry event last week, cracking funnies about everything from Kim Dotcom to his party's controversial dealings with Chinese businesspeople.

Addressing the 800-strong crowd at the Infinz Awards, he said New Zealand had expended a lot of energy in the past trying to sell products into protected economies in Europe and North America. "Now we're confronted with these massive markets [such as China], growing fast, who can't get enough of our food, or apparently of our ministers," English said, presumably referring to the saga over Justice Minister Judith Collins' relationship with dairy exporter Oravida.

The Finance Minister also took a pop at National Party nemesis Kim Dotcom, who is looking to list his data storage and encryption firm Mega on the NZX through a reverse takeover of penny-dreadful TRS Investments. "I was just thinking that the backdoor listing [of Mega] that Dotcom's looking for gives new meaning to the words 'big float'."

Doing the rounds


Christchurch-based fruit and vegetable marketer Scales Corp has been meeting fund managers this week, suggesting the company may be advancing its plans for an NZX listing.

But the firm is keeping its lips sealed. Asked for comment this week, a Scales spokeswoman re-issued a statement from chairman Jon Mayson saying: "While the Scales board regularly reviews whether or not a listing on NZX would be beneficial we aren't in a position to confirm anything at this time."

Scales was once part of the late Allan Hubbard's South Canterbury Finance and is now majority owned by Auckland investment firm Direct Capital.

It is one of New Zealand's oldest companies, founded in 1897.

The company, which reported a 20 per cent lift in profit to $20.4 million on revenue of $278.1 million for the 2013 calender year, employs more than 400 staff.

NZX chief executive Tim Bennett has said about 40 firms are currently mulling listings and up to eight have taken the next step and appointed advisers - a good indication of how serious they are about going public.

Technology firms Eroad, Gentrack, Triplejump, Orion Health and Fronde are among the companies that are on the listing radar.

Synlait avoids slump


Investors have largely shrugged off Canterbury dairy processor Synlait's Chinese regulatory headache.

The Dunsandel-based company, which floated on the NZX last year, is yet to achieve the registration with China's government that it needs in order to export infant formula into that country under regulations that came into force on May 1.

The company expects to gain registration next month, following the completion of a canning line under construction at its factory.

Regulatory uncertainty tends to make investors jittery, but Synlait shares have stood up reasonably well to the recent issues. Shares closed at $3.73 on May 1 and climbed to $3.80 on May 5 before falling to $3.65 by the close yesterday. At that price they're 11 per cent down on the all-time high of $4.11 - 87 per cent above their listing price of $2.20 - they hit in January.

A2 Milk is in a similar boat to Synlait, and its stock has also held its ground. Shares in A2 were trading at 80c at the close yesterday, equal to their closing price on May 1 but 16 per cent below the record of 96c they reached in February.

Stock Takes understands A2 is expecting its registration to be concurrent with Synlait's.