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NZX Stock Pitch

By VWArticles. Originally published at ValueWalk.

NZX summary Via Elevation Capital

Seth Klarman: A Bubble Warning From The Past

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


§ NZX operates a monopoly-like business that retains the ability to at least grow in line with GDP; however,


§ The business has suffered from ill discipline over the past five years, with operating margin declining by over 50%, and total


return to shareholders of +22.5% significantly underperforming the NZX50’s +105.1%.


§ While the Agri data and publishing businesses have in the past been strong contributors to profit, the publishing landscape


has changed, and NZX was slow to react;


§ The significant acquisition of SuperLife has also suffered from a lack of focus on costs and opex investments subsequent to


acquisition;


§ The Board has pulled one of the two levers available to them and replaced the CEO. The new CEO now has the opportunity


to clearly articulate a strategy for improving returns and profitably growing the business over the long term;


§ It is our view that NZX is worth ~NZ$1.44 a share assuming the following steps are undertaken:


Ø Immediate remediation of the cost base to return the business to its prior mid-30’s operating margins;


Ø Review strategic alternatives for the funds management businesses including the potential sale of the business to a


specialist global player;

You want winners?” – A story of crazy speculation




Ø Handover regulatory functions of the markets business to the FMA;


Ø Develop a credible plan with growth options for the business or become a “utility”;


Ø Return NZ$20M to NZ$30M in capital to shareholders via a tax-efficient buyback at present prices; and,


Ø Further broaden board member skill-sets with international investing/exchange experience as well as business


development skills.


OVERVIEW


NZX Limited (NZX:NZ, Market Capitalisation NZ$278M) operates various capital markets within New Zealand providing trading,


post-trade and data services, as well as a central securities depository. As New Zealand’s only registered Securities Exchange, the


Group operates multiple ‘markets’ including the NZX Main Board (NZX), NZX Alternative Market (NZAX) and the NXT. NZX also


operates several other markets on behalf of third parties such as the New Zealand electricity market under long-term contracts from


the Electricity Authority and the Fonterra Shareholders’ Market on behalf of Fonterra. As of 30 April 2017, total debt and equity


listing across NZX’s exchanges held respective market capitalisations of NZ$26.6B and NZ$119.9B.


ATTRACTIVE BUSINESS MODEL


NZX has a near monopoly in the New Zealand primary listed equity and debt markets. Core market operations represent 68%


(NZ$52.9M) of Group revenues and include initial/annual listing fees, data fees, and trading & settlement fees. One of the most


attractive qualities of NZX’s core markets business is the consistent nature of its recurring revenues. Notably, the Group’s annual


listing fees, which provide a robust platform for NZX to leverage future growth. To this extent, attracting new businesses to list on


their platform is a key imperative to driving sustainable long-term growth.


DESPITE MONOPOLISTIC CHARACTERISTICS THERE EXISTS A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT


The advent of new technologies has contributed to the globalisation of business and capital flows, vastly changing the competitive


landscape for stock exchanges. In response, leading stock exchanges have restructured their businesses, pursued foreign company


listings and explored M&A opportunities/strategic alliances. This has resulted in renewed focus on improving product offerings


(IPOs), listing standards, fee structures, and regulation. In contrast, NZX has remained relatively insulated from such pressures,


providing little impetus for increasing efficiency or promoting its business. Left unaddressed; such factors may support an exodus of


larger New Zealand companies to ASX. As it stands, NZX/ASX dual-listed stocks account for 9 out of the 10 S&P/NZX10


constituents, and approximately 60% of the S&P/NZX50 constituents.


ASX’S COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE


Economies of scale and network effects significantly contribute to liquidity and market depth; where studies have revealed size and


liquidity to be the top considerations for new businesses seeking to list on an exchange. As at December 2016, listed entities on NZX


had a total market capitalisation of ~NZ$115.5B, versus ~NZ$1.8T of total market capitalisation on the ASX; while trading volumes


were similarly low at 37% of market capitalisation versus 72% of ASX. The comparatively small market/trading volumes of NZX place


it at a substantial disadvantage when competing for new listings, leading to a vicious cycle. Offsetting this, and highlighting in our


opinion a failure to “communicate and sell” effectively, are the higher multiples NZX listed companies currently fetch versus global


peers across the broad industry spectrum and the higher than average forward multiples the market continues to trade at which


should make listing in New Zealand attractive. (Forsyth Barr in a report dated 12 June 2017, currently estimates the 12 month forwardweighted


PE multiple for the New Zealand market to be 19.5x, or +10% above the five-year average).


2

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CONSOLIDATION OF MARKETS


It has been well publicised that despite strong equity market performance, NZX currently lacks a meaningful IPO pipeline. In 2015,


NZX achieved a total of three IPOs while 2016 was similarly underwhelming with the IPOs of Tegel Group, Investore Property and


New Zealand King Salmon. However, one has to acknowledge that this is the experience globally, predominantly as a result of


regulatory creep and the growth in private equity funding which allows companies to stay private longer. Jason Zweig in the Wall


Street Journal on 23 June 2017 – using the chart (below), highlighted the declining number of listings in the US capital markets since


1980.


Source: The Wall Street Journal1


The new SEC Chairman according this Reuters article [ http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-sec-ipo-idUSKBN19D1S2 ] is also


investigating why IPO volumes in the US have declined by as much as one third since 2015.


NZX management has also made attempts to try and create an attractive environment for smaller companies to list. Launched in


2016, NXT was developed as a marketplace for fast-growing, small and mid-sized businesses. NXT is intended to provide SMEs with


the necessary capital required to expand their business in addition to creating a viable runway for SMEs to graduate to NZX’s Main


Board. Its reception thus far has been underwhelming and as at December 2016, NXT had a total of four listings with no apparent


pipeline for growth and one of the four recently announcing a proposal to delist. While alternate exchanges have proved successful


overseas (such as the FTSE AIM in London), it is our view that the small size of New Zealand’s capital markets makes it hard to


justify the existence of three separate equity markets (the Main Board, NZAX and NXT). It is worth considering that ASX, which is


approximately 16x the size of NZX, continues to run a single equity market. We assert that companies listed on NZAX and NXT may


be better served under the umbrella of NZX’s Main Board with a simplified rule set for small-cap listed companies – e.g. for


companies with a market capitalisation below NZ$ 25.00 million.

REVIEW REGULATORY FUNCTIONS


We recognise that self-regulation has its benefits, including an overall increase in regulatory resources and an ability to leverage


inside knowledge/expertise of industry professionals. However, we suggest there

The post NZX Stock Pitch appeared first on ValueWalk.

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