Brent King returns to finance sector as General Finance changes hands

Brent King says there's a demand in the market for finance companies.

Brent King is in charge of his first finance company since exiting Dorchester Pacific in 2006 after a group of investors including Mr King, Malaysia-based Rewi Bugo, investment banker Marvin Lee and the Business Bakery's Grant Baker and Stephen Sinclair bought small non-bank home lender General Finance.

The investors, through Corporate Holdings Ltd, acquired General Finance on December 17 from parties associated with James Lockie and William Cairns in a transaction that had been inked a year earlier but took about 12 months to gain approvals from the Reserve Bank and the trust deed supervisor, the Bath Street Capital-owned Covenant Trustee Services.

Mr King says total assets currently stand at about $15 million. As at September 30, total assets stood at $12.9 million and liabilities at $9.7 million and it recorded a six-month profit of $192,630, according to General Finance's latest product disclosure statement dated December 21 for up to $20 million of term deposits.

Some 84 percent of assets were loan receivables, of which $10.2 million were on first mortgages and $630,000 on second mortgages.

Its capital ratio stood at 47 percent and its liquidity cover ratio at 4.7 times. It had no related party exposures. Its customers "are generally higher risk borrowers, who may have some credit issues, and have not been able to borrow from trading bank sources," it says. Most are referred by mortgage brokers.

Background history
General Finance started business in 1999 as a second mortgage lender and expanded to a full range of home loan products two years later. It has been issuing prospectuses for term deposits since 2004.

According to its last annual report, home mortgage lending peaked in at more than $400 million in 2007, the year it sold its prime mortgage portfolio. The firm "has been a survivor of the finance company sector collapse," managing to trade profitably in the wake of the global financial crisis, it says.

Mr King, who runs NZX sponsor Investment Research Group, says the new owners aim to increase the size of General Finance, get a credit rating and down the track a listing is "a possibility." It is currently exempt from needing a credit rating because its liabilities are less than $20 million.

"We've seen strong demand for both sides of the balance sheet – deposits and loans," Mr King says. "It's still a small company. We have a three-year plan to make it develop. You've got to get a balance of deposits and loans," adding that the aim was "a solid staircase of growth" rather than a rocket.

General Finance offers term deposits from six months to five years. The current one-year rate on its website is 4.0% a year versus an average 3.42% for rates compiled on the interest.co.nz site. Its five-year rate of 4.75% compares with an average 4.04%.

Dorchester dragged down
Mr King was managing director of Dorchester Pacific from 1988-2006, although he sold most of his shares in that company in 2004 to Bridgecorp Capital, then run by Rod Petrecevic, who was later jailed for fraud.

Mr King had founded Dorchester and built it into a $480 million company by assets but after his departure it was dragged down by a disastrous investment in St Laurence. It went into a moratorium in 2009 because it couldn't meet payments to debenture holders.

However, it had attracted Business Bakery as a cornerstone shareholder and, unlike many finance companies, it survived the global financial crisis by convincing investors to accept a complex asset swap.

It is now the profitable listed Turners Automotive Group.

"If you want to last a long time, the key is diversification of risk," Mr King says. "Our market is so small that until you get to a critical size you are exposed."

He says legislative changes since the collapse of the finance company sector, including a more stringent reporting regime, has given investors "more confidence".

Mr King sees a market opportunity for General Finance in medium-term financing – one-to-three years.

Demand for finance companies
"This is a very interesting time in the market for finance companies," he says. "There clearly is market demand for the Investment and lending products. It is my view that a well-structured and well-capitalised finance company will have significant opportunities in the current market."

Mr King says he met Grant Baker through the float of 42 Below and its subsequent sale. Mr King has also sponsored or advised on listings of Charlie's, Finzsoft Solutions, Chow Group and Dorchester.

He is a director of Chow Group and of Mykco, the shell of the previously listed Mykris, which was bought back by its Malaysian investors in 2016.

Mykco owns 1.6% of Corporate Holdings, the parent of General Finance. Mr Bugo is the biggest shareholder with 32%, followed by Mr King with about 21% and Mr Yee on 16.3%.

General Finance has hired Greg Pearce as lending and credit manager, the same role he held at Dorchester between 1997 and 2008.

Chief financial officer Garth Ward previously worked for Allied Nationwide Finance when it was placed in receivership in 2010.

"You just need experienced guys who understand risk and how to mitigate it writing the cheques," Mr King says.

(BusinessDesk)


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Didn't Mr King also sell off Directbroking.

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we will see where this one goes....but I personally would not put your money into it for at least two years while it matures if it is going to. King is a good operator but only when the table is clear and he controls all that happens.

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That's very insightful and accurate. The Board construct will be really interesting.

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Yeah it was a very interesting time for finance companies back in 2007 as well. Not.

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Wasn’t his last foray into finance to destroy almost all of the value in Viking capital? Some track record...

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Anyone would think that you were expecting a journalist to comment on the past facts relating to an ex finance company boss. I'm sorry, but you're going to be disappointed if you're expecting that. In my experience dealing with finance writers, not only are they not interested in hearing the facts, writing about them is off the table as well. Why? I do not know. My personal opinion, they're scared of being sued for libel.

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Annualised profit $380k on assets (loans?) $12.9mill less than bank returns. How is this a business?

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I thinks that's after all costs. The cost structure may be high not only remuneration but directors employees insurance etc. To be sure if all goes belly up the directors employees are well covered for legal fees. etc

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If the usual king pattern is followed....it will be expansion. Capital raise.listing with options thrown in for more leverage.
I see a lot of demand for this type of business as the economic cycle starts to get a wee bit choppy.

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I cannot believe anybody would ever invest in a finance company ever again , haven't people learnt , shonky business model , borrow short loan long check the track records of the people involved.

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The older ones would have learnt, but the younger ones coming through have yet to be burnt.

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It's not the model or the business of a finance company that is wrong, it was those who ran them who then went to second and even third mortgage on what can only be described as a risky loan at the best. An example being one finance company that did a second mortgage on a refurbishment of a pub in Taihape -- now that's HIGH risk.

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What part will Mykco play in this venture?
will they sell down their small holding or build up the holding over time...ummm will be interesting.

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Be suited for P2P lending. You know, for the likes of Hotchie, Petricevic, Nicholls et al

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