INVESTMENT SUMMARY 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: • Immediate remediation of the cost base to return the business to its prior mid-30’s operating margins; • Review strategic alternatives for the funds management businesses including the potential sale of the business to a specialist global player; • Handover regulatory functions of the markets business to the FMA; • Develop a credible plan with growth options for the business or become a “utility”; • Return NZ$20M to NZ$30M in capital to shareholders via a tax-efficient buyback at present prices; and, • 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 longterm 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 forward-weighted PE multiple for the New Zealand market to be 19.5x, or +10% above the five-year average). 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.