Are property stocks over-valued? Fonterra rebrand source of new legal action, How TPP will shake up NZ technology

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In NBR Print today: Fonterra’s new global brand, Farm Source, might be in jeopardy after a “miffed” Waikato animal feed supplier claimed the new brand infringed trademarks it has held since 2003. The dispute is heading to court next year, with Fonterra’s rebranding of 67 RD1 stores to Farm Source, as well as websites and tankers, exposed to the outcome of the proceedings – with the cost unknown. Hamish McNicol reports.

A lot of the hype around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been on issues like Fonterra’s access to US markets and whether generic drugs and parallel importing will go down the gurgler. But the controversial trade deal could also cause a radical shake up in IT services commissioned by the New Zealand government, which account for a huge chunk of our tech sector economy, writes Ian Apperley.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler’s cut to the official cash rate has just given investors yet more reason to buy shares in property companies. In the real world, the prices of the types of office, retail and industrial properties the listed companies invest in have continued to rise. The numbers are looking a little eyewatering, but everything’s relative and, as one fund manager wryly noted: “The market can stay inefficient longer than I can keep my job.” Jenny Ruth reports.

Fonterra’s latest snafu, in which staff heard about potential job cuts in a radio interview, has provoked further debate about the giant dairy co-op’s performance. This week’s Hunter’s Corner column argues that much criticism is unjustified since Fonterra is a creature of its co-operative constitution and enabling legislation. Those rules constrain management’s decision making and mandate how it invests. Heartland columnist Jacqueline Rowarth suggests a fixation with competition for milk supply is distracting Fonterra from a more profitable future. As the Commerce Commission reviews the industry structure, it should be looking not just at efficiency but whether competition is necessary. And Fonterra should be considering dividing itself into separate farmer-focused and consumer-focused entities.

A controversial recruitment company that went into liquidation but continued trading with the same name, staff and premises may be facing litigation after walking away from a $960,000 Inland Revenue bill, reports Jamie Ball. Named after former director, rugby league stalwart Graham Lowe, Lowie Recruitment formally went under on December 23 as a result of its secured creditor taking control of the company’s assets. However, according to its liquidator, the unsecured creditor was Pounamu International: not the IRD. Pounamu is part of a labyrinth of forty-plus companies owned and directed by Silverdale director duo Andrew Chalmers and Zane Cleaver, who now own and direct Lowie Recruitment’s identical twin, Lowie Recruitment International.

Shareholders’ Association founder Bruce Sheppard says the Unlisted market should be exempt from the licensing requirements of the Financial Markets Conduct Act, at odds with the association’s stance. Mr Sheppard says Unlisted’s exemption should be qualified only by a requirement that companies listing on it adopt an insider trading code and other requirements to publish annual reports.

All this and more in today's National Business Review. Out now.


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