Morrison & Co picks up Fisher Funds stake

Lloyd Morrison’s HRL Morrison & Co has bought a 26% stake in Fisher Funds.

The partnership, announced today, will see Mr Morrison join the Fisher Funds board and Carmel Fisher become a director of HRL Morrison & Co, which manages listed infrastructure company Infratil.

Morrison & Co is also a specialist manager of infrastructure assets for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

Fisher Funds used to have a Super Fund mandate too – to manage part of its New Zealand equity portfolio – which it lost in March.

The deal with Mr Morrison, who is very well respected in the business community, is a coup for Ms Fisher.

She has been shopping for a shareholder for months to take on the stake purchased from former chief investment officer Warren Couillault after his departure.

Ms Fisher and her husband Hugh took out a loan from ASB Bank in June, with 5533 of Fisher Funds’ 10,000 shares pledged as security, to buy Mr Couillault’s shareholding in the business.

Mr Couillault, who used to have a 27% stake in Fisher Funds, left the company in February amidst rumours of a rift and keen industry speculation about the size of his payout.

Fisher Funds manages five unit trusts and three NZX-listed investment companies, and has more than 13,000 KiwiSaver clients.

After a run of success, 2008 has been a horror year for equities in general and growth stocks, in which Fisher Funds invests, in particular.

As a result, the share price of the three listed vehicles – Kingfish, Barramundi and Marlin – has taken a battering.

For the year to March 2008, Fisher Funds earned revenue of $16.6 million and a profit after tax of $3.84 million.

The dividends paid to shareholders were doubled from $2.5 million to $5 million.

In May, NBR reported that Fisher Funds had issued a confidential information memorandum seeking a new shareholder for the company.

At the time, Ms Fisher strongly denied there was a sale process going on.

But in August she told NBR that she had been in talks with an interested party at the time, which had since ceased.

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