Foreign investors helping drive up value of NZ shares


The New Zealand share market has been hitting new highs. One of the big factors driving up the local market is offshore investment.

Overseas investors have been attracted by the stable returns and relatively high dividends paid by local companies.

Many "blue chip" New Zealand companies are paying dividends of around 5 to 7 percent annually. That is a much higher payment rate than blue chip companies in countries like the United States.

JBWere's Foreign Ownership Survey reports last year 32.6 percent of the New Zealand market was owned by offshore investors.

That comprised 27.7 percent held by offshore owners (mainly managed investment funds) and 4.9 percent by strategic investors.

The remaining shares were:

Strategic investors include the Government and its majority holdings in Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis Energy and Air New Zealand.

If you take those strategic stakes out of the equation and look only at stocks available for sale (the "free float") the foreign ownership levels rise.

Forsyth Barr says 46 percent of the "free float" is owned by offshore investors. That's eleven percent higher than the ten year average, it says.

However you calculate the number, New Zealand has one of the highest foreign ownership levels of any share market in the world.

The rise of investment in New Zealand by offshore investors has helped drive up stock prices.

But it also raises the possibility that if those investors decided to exit the market there could be a sharp fall in prices.