New Zealand export log prices edged up in November although demand from China, the country’s largest market, is likely to remain subdued until the second quarter of next year.
The average wharf gate price for New Zealand A-grade logs rose to $98.1 a tonne, from a revised $96.3 a tonne in October, according to Agrifax’s monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and sawmillers. The Agrifax Log Price Indicator, which measures average log prices weighted by grade, advanced to 92.7 from a revised 92.2 in October.
New Zealand log returns were bolstered in the month by declining shipping prices as oil prices fell, some exporters raised prices to fill ships, and as some buyers at South Island ports passed on the lagged effect of price gains from a lower kiwi dollar. Still, import prices in China continued to decline even as log inventories on the wharves of Asia’s largest economy reduced on lower supply, as importers found it harder to get credit and housing demand remained lacklustre.
“Inventories on ports are slowly getting better…which generally would mean slight increases in price at New Zealand,” said Agrifax forestry analyst Ivan Luketina.
Still, he said China is heading into a seasonal slowdown for building with the arrival of winter and Chinese New Year, which is likely to keep demand for logs subdued.
“Some exporters aren’t really expecting much increase in prices there until the second quarter next year,” he said, adding lower inventories will likely be dependent on a continued drop off in supply.
China imported 14 percent less logs in the third quarter of this year, compared with the second quarter. Of its major log markets, the country took 13 percent less logs from New Zealand, 10 percent less from Canada and 9 percent less from Russia while supply outside of the main countries dropped away quite significantly following a price correction, Luketina said. Supply from the US hadn’t dropped away as much as other main markets and it appeared price drops were yet to be passed through in that market, he said.
A weak Chinese housing market had squeezed margins for importers of some building materials, with reports some had overstated their inventories in an attempt to secure bank loans, Luketina said.
“It’s meant banks there are taking quite a closer look at who they are lending to and whether it is specifically for log imports, or if they are actually using log imports as a front to fund other businesses,” he said. “A lot of the importers are finding it hard to get access to the credit they need so it’s meant a drop away in demand.”
Meanwhile, Chinese property analysts are divided on whether a lifting of bank restrictions on house mortgages will arrest a decline in house prices, he said.
The weaker Chinese log market has prompted some forest owners to turn to the domestic New Zealand market, which has had less price volatility and where the appetite for structural logs is underpinned by demand in the Auckland and Christchurch housing markets.
“A few forest owners are trying to increase what they are sending to the domestic market just to have more stable returns for awhile,” Luketina said. “It seems a lot of sawmills are expecting quite a busy summer.”
Meanwhile, demand for pruned logs was picking up on optimism about the US housing market, he said.
The New Zealand dollar advanced as some investors bet its decline made it attractive buying.
The kiwi rose to 78.74 US cents at 8am in Wellington, from 78.41 cents at 5pm yesterday. The trade-weighted index gained to 78.26 from 78.06 yesterday.
The New Zealand dollar has fallen about 11 percent from its peak in July amid concerns that falling dairy prices will weigh on farmer incomes and crimp economic growth, at the same time as increased optimism about a US recovery boosts demand for the greenback. Some analysts say that while the longer-term trend is for the kiwi to decline, investors who follow technical charts are seeing it as attractive buying at these levels.
“It does look very much more like a technical move rather than anything fundamental,” said Stuart Ive, a senior dealer of foreign exchange at OMF. “The technical pattern on the kiwi going back over the last 12 hours does suggest that we may see a little bit of further push to the upside, maybe even up to 79, where we would expect to see sellers coming into the market.
“Anything with a 79 handle on will attract sellers and for the time being we seem to have some support come through around the 78.30 area,” Ive said.
In New Zealand today, data on credit card spending is scheduled for publication at 3pm.
The New Zealand dollar edged lower to 91.09 Australian cents from 91.15 cents yesterday ahead of a speech by the Reserve Bank of Australia’s head of economic analysis department, Alex Heath, at the NSW Mining Industry and Suppliers Conference in Sydney.
The local currency advanced to 62.74 euro cents from 62.51 cents yesterday after Eurozone economic data printed weaker than expected. Markit’s Composite Flash Purchasing Managers’ Index, based on surveys of thousands of companies and seen as a good growth indicator, fell to 51.4, lagging expectations for 52.3. A PMI covering the dominant service industry also missed all predictions in the poll by falling to 51.3, while the factory PMI’s dip to 50.4.
Meanwhile, manufacturing activity in Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, slid to the cusp of contraction. Markit’s PMI recorded a value of 50.0, down from 51.4 in October and a two-month low. A reading of 50 marks the dividing line between contraction and expansion.
The kiwi gained to 92.84 yen from 92.79 yen yesterday and rose to 50.15 British pence from 50.02 pence.
The Commerce Commission inquiry into anti-competitive behaviour by Countdown supermarkets, alleged by former Labour Party MP Shane Jones, has found nothing to warrant prosecution, although it warns supermarkets to take care in the way they communicate\ with suppliers and that discussions with competitors “carry significant risks for all involved.
The competition watchdog’s report, issued this morning, suggests much of the concern among suppliers to supermarkets occurred early this year when Progressive Enterprises – operator of the Countdown supermarket chain – changed its strategy to try to resist price increases from suppliers by locking in existing prices and ”not accepting price increases in the first instance, and making greater use of its sales and margin data to assess supplier performance.”
The inquiry did find some evidence of confusion or misunderstanding, abetted by ambiguous communication by Progressive/Countdown, provoking the warning that “ambiguity in business communications should be avoided as it can lead to misunderstanding that can place you at risk of breaching the law.”
There was no evidence found of any communication between Progressive and its competitors, mainly the New World and Pak’n'Save supermarkets operated by the Foodstuffs cooperatives.
Jones’s allegations were made in February, under cover of parliamentary privilege, and came before his unexpected resignation as an MP to become a roving fisheries ambassador in a move seen as a coup for the National Party-led government, given his strong political performance.
Jones alleged Countdown’s tactics amounted to ”corruption, racketeering and blackmail” and likened its behaviour to the TV crime series family, the Sopranos, allegations that Countdown denied at the time.
The chief executive of the commission, Brent Alderton, said in a statement that “we do not consider that any of the conduct we investigated was unlawful and our investigation is now closed. We do not intend to take any further action.”
The commission received evidence from some 90 complaints in the course of the inquiry, leading to investigations into potential breaches of the Fair Trading and Commerce Acts.
Serko, the online travel booking business, widened its first-half loss in line with its May prospectus as it hired more staff to chase sales growth.
The Auckland-based company increased its loss to $3.6 million in the six months ended Sept. 30, from a loss of $347,146 a year earlier, it said in a statement. Sales rose 50 percent to $4.7 million. Expenses increased 127 percent to $8.9 million, fuelled by a 129 percent increase in remuneration and benefits to $5.3 million as it increased its payroll to 84 from 65.
In June, Serko raised $17 million in new capital selling 15.5 million new shares at $1.10 a piece, via an initial public offering to fund its growth ambitions and repay debt. Founders Darrin Grafton and Bob Shaw sold a further $5 million worth of shares into the offer, retaining about a 20 percent stake and have agreed not to sell any more shares until two days after Serko announces its 2016 annual result.
The software-as-a-service company has forecast losses for its 18-month forecast horizon, but chairman Simon Botherway told investors in May the company doesn’t anticipate raising more funds with Serko expected to be operationally cash-flow positive by the end of 2016. According to its prospectus, Serko expects a net loss of $6.6 million in the 12 months ending March 31 next year, from a loss of $1.7 million in 2014, and a first-half loss of $2.5 million the following year. Revenue is seen climbing 53 percent to $11 million in 2015, with sales of $8.3 million in the six months ending Sept. 30, 2015.
“Serko is currently on-track to achieve the financial forecast for the 12 months to March 2015 included in the prospective financial information contained in the prospectus,” chief executive Grafton said. “At a macro level, the global market for travel technology remains strong and is experiencing a level of consolidation. The acquisition of our main competitor Concur by SAP in October 2014 is a clear demonstration of the value inherent in the market.
The company flagged Ebola as a risk to the travel industry and its business, but had “not detected or been made aware of any material impacts to corporate travel is Australasia and South East Asian market” and would continue to closely monitor the situation.
Serko generates revenue by providing customers and travel agencies greater control over their travel budgets to improve efficiency and uses travel agents as resellers of its software. In the six month period the company trialed Serko Mobile, and plans to launch the product commercially next year.
“The product has already garnered significant interest from overseas markets, with nuTravel, a leading US travel technology provider, signing a three year reseller deal for the technology,” Grafton said. “We remain convinced that mobile is right at the core of our industry transformation strategy and plan to continue substantial investment in this space.”
Cash held at Sept. 30 was $8.3 million, having forecast net cash of $9.9 million on listing, and anticipates spending $2.4 million in the current financial year and $2.5 million in the first half of the 2016 financial year.
Shares of Serko last traded at 96 cents, and have largely traded below its offer price.
The New Zealand dollar was volatile following the release of the Federal Reserve minutes to its last meeting this morning, as the minutes failed to outline plans for likely interest rate hikes in the world’s largest economy.
In the hour following the publication of the minutes at 8am New Zealand time, the kiwi traded between 78.39 US cents 78.93 cents, from 78.71 cents immediately before the release and 78.70 cents at 5pm yesterday.
Traders were scouring the minutes to the Fed’s October meeting for clues about the outlook for interest rates, which the policy making committee has previously said would remain near zero for a “considerable time”. However despite the Fed sounding more upbeat about the improvement in the US economy at this meeting and calling an end to its stimulatory bond-buying programme, the minutes didn’t provide any further detail on when and how the central bank could begin to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since December 2008.
“There was a little bit of something for everyone in the minutes. It’s pretty balanced,” Sam Tuck, senior foreign exchange strategist at ANZ Bank New Zealand, told BusinessDesk. “The minutes do read like everybody was expecting, i.e. they are a little bit more optimistic about the outlook but we had already got that from the statement.
“There are not really that many new surprises in there. If anything, the New Zealand dollar might find a little bit of strength on this, because markets might have been looking for just a little bit more confidence or a little bit more news about how long ‘considerable time’ is,” the ANZ’s Tuck said.
In New Zealand today, data releases include the producers price index, the capital goods price index and the farm expenses price index.
This afternoon, the focus will turn to Chinese flash manufacturing PMI data for signs of how Asia’s largest economy is tracking.
Elsewhere, Purchasing Managers Index readings are scheduled for release in Japan, the Eurozone and the US, and the US also publishes inflation data for October.
The New Zealand dollar advanced to 91.23 Australian cents at 8am from 90.79 cents at 5pm yesterday, weakened to 62.64 euro cents from 62.89 cents, slipped to 50.15 British pence from 50.42 pence and advanced to 92.64 yen from 92.26 yen. The trade-weighted index edged up to 78.21 from 78.17 yesterday.
Wall Street slipped, pushing the Dow and the S&P 500 down from their record-high closes the previous day, as investors awaited guidance on the timing of an interest rate increase by the US Federal Reserve.
The Fed is set to release minutes from its October meeting at 2 pm in Washington
“Investors will screen the minutes for any fresh hints about the fights between the doves and the hawks at the Fed and the pace of the future rate path,” Ralf Zimmermann, an equity strategist at Bankhaus Lampe in Dusseldorf, Germany, told Bloomberg News.
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.08 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.27 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.48 percent. All three benchmarks pared earlier losses.
US Treasuries also fell ahead of the minutes. Yields on the five-year note rose five basis points to 1.65 percent in midday trading in New York.
Declines in shares of Verizon Communications and those of Microsoft, down 1.4 percent and 1.2 percent respectively, outweighed gains in shares of Home Depot and those of Boeing, each up 1.1 percent.
Shares of some US retailers jumped amid better-than-expected earnings. Shares of Staples soared 9.1 percent, while those of Target climbed 7.2 percent.
“Once we get through Thanksgiving (later this month) the focus will be on the consumer and retail sales,” KC Mathews, the Kansas City-based chief investment officer at UMB Bank, told Bloomberg News. “If you have a good holiday spending season it validates the health of the consumer and sets us up for some momentum in 2015.”
Shares of Lowe’s rallied 6.6 percent after the home improvement chain upgraded its earnings forecasts.
“We are pleased with our performance, and continue to be cautiously optimistic about the home improvement landscape,” Robert Niblock, Lowe’s CEO, said in a statement.
The latest housing data underpinned that optimism.
Starts for US single-family homes advanced 4.2 percent to a 696,000 annualised rate in October, the most since November 2013, Commerce Department data showed. Meanwhile, building permits climbed 4.8 percent to a 1.08 million-unit rate, the highest in more than six years.
“Housing activity continues to recover, although the pace of the recovery remains slower than in the previous couple of years, owing to the decline in housing affordability,” Blerina Uruci, an economist at Barclays in New York, told Reuters.
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 edged lower to end the session at 339.15.
The UK’s FTSE 100 Index slipped 0.2 percent. France’s CAC 40 added 0.1 percent, while Germany’s DAX gained 0.2 percent.
New Zealand shares rose, paced by Meridian Energy and MightyRiverPower, as investors chased stocks with relatively attractive yields. Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund gained after dairy prices fell.
The NZX 50 Index rose 17.028 points, or 0.3 percent, to a record close of 5522.056. Within the index, 23 stocks rose, 16 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $121 million.
The benchmark index has gained 16 percent since the start of the year, and is being pushed higher by investor’s appetite for yield in a low interest rate environment. Earnings from companies with September balance dates have generally met expectations, which is underpinning the market, investors said.
“We do have the double-blessed environment of good quality results that have meet or slightly beat expectations as well as remaining relatively attractive from an income yield perspective,” said Shane Solly, a fund manager at Harbour Asset Management. “Our market is relatively fully priced and certainly that can be resolved by way of earnings growth.”
Energy companies, which are often held for their reliable income, gained. Meridian climbed 3.5 percent to $1.775. MRP advanced 3.3 percent to $3.095. Genesis Energy rose 0.2 percent to $2.185. Contact Energy gained 0.2 percent to $6.25.
Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, slipped 0.6 percent to $3.225. The telecommunications business, held for its yield, has overtaken Fletcher Building to become the largest company on the benchmark index by market cap. Fletcher, the construction company, fell 0.6 percent to $8.40.
“Investors have lost some of their enthusiasm for Fletcher Building, particularly the nature of their Australian assets, and their stock price has fallen as a result,” Solly said. “In the meantime we’ve seen Spark benefit from the hunger for income yield which it provides.”
Units in Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund rose 0.5 percent to $6.20. Overnight dairy product prices fell in the GlobalDairyTrade auction to the lowest level in more than five years, led by declines in rennet casein, skim milk powder and whole milk powder, while butter and cheese prices rose. The units give holders access to Fonterra Cooperative Group’s dividend stream.
“Things like whole milk powder and skim milk powder reduces the input costs for Fonterra, but things like butter and cheese holding up relatively well means they should get an improvement in margins in the near term,” Solly said. “There’s two key parts to the business – there’s the processing component, which is driven by volume which continues to grow, and then the other part is very much the consumer or finished products part which are sold wholesale to food producers.”
OceanaGold Corp led the benchmark index higher, gaining 6.3 percent to $2.70. The Melbourne-based miner has been scaling back its New Zealand gold mining production as it focuses on its copper and gold production in the Philippines, at its Didipio mine.
“Oceana has come out with some reasonable statements in recent times about what they’ve got in their Philippine Didipio assets,” Solly said. “People can see some upside and potential out of those assets relative to other gold producers.”
Argosy Property Fund rose 0.5 percent to $1.06 after lifted first-half earnings 25 percent to $37.6 million in the six months ended Sept. 30, as its occupancy rate increased and it continued to divest non-core assets.
Outside the benchmark index, AWF Group rose 0.4 percent to 2.57. The contract labour firm that last year took on debt to acquire white-collar recruiter Madison, will probably launch a $12 million rights offer next year to reduce its borrowings and put some money in the kitty for potential future acquisitions.
Sanford was unchanged at $5.20 and has gained 12 percent since the start of the year. New Zealand’s largest listed fishing group lifted annual profit 10 percent to $22.4 million as gains in its deepwater fishing and aquaculture offset falling skipjack tuna prices.
SeaDragon rose 4.6 percent to 2.3 cents. The fishoil manufacturer turned to a loss of $574,000 in the six months ended Sept. 30, from a profit of $219,000 a year earlier, as it continued to have difficulties in securing sufficient raw material for its core Squalene operations and the resulting under utilisation of the company’s refining facilities.
On the NZAX, Moa Group rose 2.3 percent to 44 cents after the unprofitable boutique beer maker widened its first-half loss to $3.21 million, from $3.02 million a year earlier, as it restructured its fledgling business and changed distribution and brewing arrangements to underpin future growth.
The New Zealand dollar fell more than a US cent against the US dollar as traders absorbed the knock-on effect of weaker dairy prices on the domestic economy and the greenback strengthened in the wake of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s confirmation of a snap election and a delay in a sales tax hike.
The New Zealand dollar fell to 78.70 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 79.34 cents yesterday. It declined to 92.24 yen from 92.52 yen yesterday, having reached a seven-year high of 93.22 yen overnight. Prices of dairy products, New Zealand’s biggest export commodity, fell in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction to the lowest level in more than five years, stoking speculation Fonterra Cooperative Group will lower its milk payout forecast, eroding the income of farmers, with flow-on effects to the broader economy.
“There’s plenty of people saying Fonterra will have to be revising down,” said Stuart Ive, senior dealer at OMF. “If farmers are paid out less money then there’s a knock-on effect for surrounding industries.”
“We may see the kiwi pull back to 78 (US cents), or maybe sub-78 this week,” Ive said.
The New Zealand dollar has weakened as the greenback found broad strength, Ive said. The kiwi had rallied against the yen in the run-up to Abe’s announcement on a ‘buy the rumour, sell the fact’ basis.
Japan’s Abe confirmed widespread speculation by announcing he would delay plans for an unpopular second hike in the consumption tax scheduled for October next year by 18 months and would dissolve the lower house of parliament on Nov. 21 to seek a mandate at the polls next month for his set of economic policies, known as Abenomics, and includes economic reforms that have proven difficult to implement. The announcement came after data this week showed the Japanese economy has fallen into recession, with two quarters of negative growth.
The local dollar fell to 90.73 Australian cents from 90.94 cents and was down to 62.88 euro cents from 63.60 cents yesterday. It fell to 50.41 British pence from 50.69 pence. The trade-weighted index fell to 78.17 from 78.70.
AWF Group, the contract labour firm that last year took on debt to acquire white-collar recruiter Madison, will probably launch a $12 million rights offer next year to reduce its borrowings and put some money in the kitty for potential future acquisitions.
The Auckland-based company used debt to fund the $30 million purchase of Madison a year ago and expects to borrow a further $6 million later this month for a further payment after Madison met earnings targets. Chairman Ross Keenan told BusinessDesk he is taking a recommendation to the board’s Nov. 28 meeting in Christchurch suggesting they proceed with a rights issue at the top end of a $8 million to $12 million range early in the 2015 calendar year to reduce debt and remove an overhang on the share price.
“We still think there is an overhang of concern about us carrying too much debt so the recommendation will be that we now move formally towards resolving a rights issue,” Keenan said. “The board thinks that a sensible way of raising capital is to look carefully at what the next couple of years look like, including further acquisitions, so that we could do something with capital raising that still keeps us inside what the investment community believe is safe or credible.”
While AWF can service its debt with its cashflow, analysts and investors would like to see the company reduce its ratio of debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, he said, adding he had first wanted to wait for confirmation of this month’s extra $6 million payout for Madison and also ensure that annual sales for the group are on track to meet the forecast of $200 million, which they are.
Based on the company’s forecast for annual Ebitda of $14 million and debt of about $30 million, the debt/Ebitda ratio would be just over 2 without the capital raising. However that ratio would reduce to within the 1 to 1.5 range favoured by analysts by the second quarter of next year should the company go ahead with a $12 million rights issue and continue with its current debt reduction programme, he said.
While a share placement would probably have been cheaper and easier for the company, current shareholders had said they wanted to be able to participate, which made a rights issue the likely choice, he said.
The board had increased the probable value of the offer up from an initial estimate of $8 million to $10 million “simply to give us some headwind in case we want to make a further acquisition,” Keenan said.
“We will look at sensible additional acquisitions where they make sense,” he said. “They are coming to us all the time now that we have made that acquisition. I’m pushing them back as chairman and the board are absolutely in agreement.”
Keenan said both he and the board wanted to confirm the final payment for Madison and shore up the balance sheet before considering further acquisitions.
The board will probably update shareholders on its plans in early December, including confirmation of its outlook for earnings, with a rights issue likely early in the 2015 calendar year, he said.
“I wanted to wait until the earnout was clear and until we had a reasonable chance to update the estimate of earnings for the year, because I wanted to be sure that we were going to perform within those forecasts,” Keenan said. “We are tracking pretty well in terms of earnings.”
Should the company decide not to make a rights offer, it would continue to use its cash flow to pay down debt, he said.
Shares in AWF advanced 0.4 percent to $2.57, and have shed 12 percent so far this year.
Moa Group posted a wider first-half loss after the unprofitable boutique beer maker restructured its fledgling business and changed distribution and brewing arrangements to underpin future growth.
The Auckland-based company posted a loss of $3.21 million, or 9.5 cents a share, in the six months ended Sept. 30, from a loss of $3.04 million, or 10.1 cents, a year earlier, it said in a statement.
Revenue rose 71 percent to $2.5 million, while the company took a one-time charge of $438,000 to write down packaging, old stock, plant and glass moulds following its decision to change its local supplier. That compares with one-time charges of $353,000 in the year-earlier period to end its New Zealand and Australian distribution agreements.
Moa, headed by chief executive Geoff Ross and chairman Grant Baker who developed the 42 Below vodka brand, has changed to a more direct distribution model, contracting out brewing for many products to McCashin’s brewery in Nelson and raising $5.75 million from shareholders to fund growth. The company’s gross profit margin improved to 19.7 percent in the first half, from 13.6 percent a year earlier as it focused on improving New Zealand sales.
“We expect to see improvements in gross margin as we bank the gains from changes in operational processes, including new contracted production, bottle supply, packaging formats and the benefits of further volume growth,” Ross said in the statement. ”We are well capitalised and well positioned for future growth. The coming 12 months will see a continued focus on New Zealand to build the right foundations before we increase our focus on larger export markets, in particular Australia followed by the United States.”
Moa’s New Zealand unit posted a wider loss of $2.09 million on an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and one-time items basis, from a loss of $1.91 million in the year-earlier period. Sales almost tripled to $1.86 million from $652,000.
The company said its share of the New Zealand grocery craft beer market rose to 8.7 percent in the three months through October, from 7.2 percent in the three months through July, and ahead of its 3.8 percent share a year ago.
However it was ”barely scratching the surface” of the New Zealand beer market and believes there is still “substantial opportunity”, signalling its New Zealand growth would continue “at a similar pace”, the company said.
“While still comparatively small, the craft beer category is in high growth,” the company said. “A small number of players (will) go on to become key participants and market leaders. We believe our current structure in both financial and people capital has us well positioned to do so.”
In Australia, where its products are now sold at the Woolworths-owned national liquor chains Dan Murphy’s and BWS, Moa’s Ebitda loss widened to $381,000 from $224,000 as sales soared to $453,000 from $79,000. Meanwhile in the US, the Ebitda loss narrowed to $260,000 from $546,000 as sales slipped to $56,000 from $484,000, the company said.
“Once we have a solid position built in New Zealand and Australia, we can then deploy more effort into the US,” Moa said. “We expect small volumes from the US this year, as we follow this strategy.”
Moa said sales should pick up in the second half of the year, reflecting the busier summer months in its key markets of New Zealand and Australia.
“Continued increases in sales volumes, improving gross profit margins and containing costs will not only build Moa market share, but also give us confidence that we are en-route to a point where the business will be profitable,” the company said. “We expect to see considerable improvements over the coming months.”
The company didn’t declare a first-hand dividend. Its shares last changed hands at 43 cents, down 66 percent from its November 2012 initial public offer price of $1.25.