ASX fishing for NZ listings

AUSTRALIA'S stock exchange has ramped up its interest in New Zealand companies as it looks to attract more firms to list across the Ditch.

Max Cunningham, general manager of listings and issuer services at the Australian Securities Exchange, said representatives of the exchange had been to New Zealand five times in the past six months spurred by the float of Mighty River Power.

"New Zealand has been leading the recovery in the IPO [initial public offer] cycle. The Mighty River IPO kick-started it. Subsequent to that there has been Z Energy."

Twenty-four New Zealand companies are dual listed on both the New Zealand stock exchange and the ASX - six of those joined the ASX in the past year.

Two other companies - Metlifecare and Ebos - have also signalled their intention to dual list on the ASX and the New Zealand Government also intends to dual list Meridian Energy.

Cunningham said the lack of interest in the New Zealand market before now was not down to neglect but due to the cyclical nature of investment.

"Before now there had been a focus on West Australian mining companies.

"The investment community are seeing New Zealand as a natural hedge at home to the mining cycle."

Investors had been able to smooth the downturn in mining by getting exposure to Fonterra and Fletcher Building, he said.

The main attraction for New Zealand companies to list on the ASX was to gain access to a broader pool of money, he added.

That includes Australia's $1.4 trillion in superannuation assets.

Cunningham said an ASX listing also helped fund managers in Australia, many of whom could not invest in a company unless it was listed on the local exchange.

Research by the ASX had shown around 90 per cent of Australia's funds under management and 80 per cent of funds by name needed an ASX listing before they could invest in a stock.

But Tim Bennett, chief executive of New Zealand's stock exchange, disputed the claim that many Australian fund managers needed an Australian listing to invest in a New Zealand company.

"I think that is a myth.

"If you look at Australian super fund assets they are around $1.4 trillion, more than 25 per cent of that is in offshore equities.

"Clearly, at least at the macro-economic level, that is a myth - Australian funds do invest offshore."

Bennett said he was not concerned about the ASX undertaking fishing trips to New Zealand.

"It just reflects the fact we have an attractive market at the moment. Australia has gone through a period of low growth. The ASX is looking at ways to expand its products."

Bennett said an ASX listing made sense if a company wanted to raise capital or sell down a stake.

But he said on average 90 per cent of the trades for dual listed New Zealand companies still came via the NZX.

Both bosses insisted they did not see each other as rivals but said it was important to work together to broaden the capital markets across New Zealand and Australia.

Dual listing

• Seven out of 10 of New Zealand's top listed companies are also listed in Australia.
• 24 New Zealand companies are currently dual listed.
• Another three plan to list this year.

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