Pumpkin Patch takeover talk "just speculation" - analysts

Research analysts say talk about a possible takeover for Pumpkin Patch appears to be just speculation at this stage.

The talk heated up on Friday when Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron disclosed a 6.3 percent interested in the children's clothing company.

Ms Cameron is one of New Zealand's wealthiest women since she sold her outdoor clothing company in two tranches in 2006 . One 51 percent stake reportedly sold for $276 million.

The publicity-shy Ms Cameron has since started a homewares company, Nood, and recently bought homewares and manchester company Arbuckles from Postie Plus Group.

She has also taken a 14 percent stake in Postie Plus itself.

Another big investor to take an interest in Pumpkin Patch while the share price is low is Briscoe Group majority shareholder Rod Duke, who has increased his stake to nearly 10 percent.

The shares touched a four-year low of $1.40 on Friday, far from its peak of $4.95 last January.

Research analysts today said the move was probably two astute investors taking a slice when the price was cheap.

"I don't know what you can read into Jan Cameron," Rickey Ward of Tyndall Investment Management said.

"She doesn't strike me as a person who's aggressive."

However, he said, Pumpkin Patch's share register now had a number of big stakeholders and any takeover bid would probably have to be friendly.

Mark Lister, head of research at ABN Amro Craigs, said the attraction of two big investors generally made the investment community sit up and take notice.

But as far as he knew, there was no takeover talk in the wind.

"Rod Duke has said he simply likes the business, likes the brand, and thinks it's a bargain."

Ms Cameron 's plans were unknown, but it was no surprise she was investing in an sector she knew well and because Pumpkin Patch was "reasonably out of favour, as some of these stocks are".

Mr Lister said some people believed Pumpkin Patch was undervalued and the two investors were probably just "exploiting the negative sentiment".

"They certainly know the sector better than most of the rest of us do."

Individuals and management still hold 43 percent of Pumpkin Patch, including the biggest shareholder, Setar Montani (11.95 percent), Rod Duke, the family of chief executive Maurice Prendergast (6.27 percent), and Mark Synnott, the husband of company founder Sally Synnott (5.6 percent).

Institutions hold just over 20 percent, including Fisher Funds (6 percent), ING (5.7 percent), NZ Super Fund (4.2 percent) and Barclays (4.2 percent).

Pumpkin Patch chairman Greg Muir told the BusinessDay website that Ms Cameron had been building her stake slowly but there had been no dialogue with her.

He was comfortable with both Mr Duke and Ms Cameron on the share register, and said neither had sought a place on the board.

"It is two well-placed New Zealand investors who obviously recognise that the company is undervalued at the moment."

Pumpkin Patch has been pounded on the sharemarket as investors worry about the company's expansion plans in the US and Britain.

Its shares were up 5c to $1.53 in mid-afternoon trading, not far from its listing price of $1.25 a share in 2004.

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