Talk Money with Tony Field – August 17, 2015

KPMG says Canada accounted for 22 percent of overseas investment in New Zealand (file)
KPMG says Canada accounted for 22 percent of overseas investment in New Zealand (file)

There has been a lot of talk about the role of foreign investors in New Zealand's residential property market. But there has not been the same level of discussion about high value investments like agriculture, businesses and commercial property.

Financial services firm KPMG says the single largest foreign investor in New Zealand in 2013 and 2014 was Canada.

This is based on applications approved by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO). The OIO looks at any investment over $100 million. It also considers investments valued at more than $10 million if the site is considered to be "sensitive".

KPMG says Canada accounted for 22 percent of overseas investment in New Zealand over the two-year period, ahead of China (14 percent), the United States (13 percent) and Australia 11 percent.

Canada does not typically hold the top spot. Its number one ranking was because of two high value deals, both involving Canada's Public Sector Pension Investment Board. The first was the purchase of a property portfolio of 18 assets from AMP Capital Property Portfolio. The second involved an increase in its investment in Kaingaroa Timberlands Limited.

KPMG says almost 60 percent of foreign direct investment comes from North America, Australia and Europe. Asia accounted for 33 percent of total investment.

The single largest buyer of land was the United States.

China and Hong Kong accounted for 49 percent of all investment in agribusiness. The majority of this was from a series of investments in the dairy sector.

It is possible that the report understates the role of Australian investors because a rule change means that in most cases Australian investors only need approval for their purchase when it totals more than $477 million.

KPMG says the role of North American investors may also be understated because they made significant investments in forestry, but many of those purchases were given confidential status. This mean they were excluded from the data.

People sometime forget that New Zealand has extensive investments overseas.

Two examples are the New Zealand Super Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

Each has investments totalling around $30 billion, with a large percentage invested offshore.

Another example is milk products exporter Biopure Health. Today it announced the opening of its flagship New Zealand Milk Bar in Chengdu. It has plans for hundreds more.

The company says the two-level, 330m2 flagship store features a retro style "milk bar" that will serve milkshakes, smoothies and fresh made yoghurt. The retail side will sell milk products from New Zealand companies, including infant formula.

New Zealand Milk Bar co-founder and managing director Simon Page says: "We now have opened 30 Milk Bars in 11 provinces of China in the past three years and there is huge demand for more."

Directors of New Zealand-owned companies are not being paid as well their counterparts at foreign owned companies.

That's according to a new survey from the Institute of Directors. It found that fees for the New Zealand directors were on average 63 percent less than overseas-owned companies.

Fees for New Zealand company directors rose 4 percent last year. But the report says their workload almost doubled.

Almost half of directors (49.4 percent) surveyed said they were unhappy with their level of remuneration.

The survey was compiled for the Institute of Directors by EY. EY partner Una Diver believes the lower pay levels are a concern.

"Do their current pay levels mean we don't adequately value the critical governance role directors perform? We know the regulatory landscape is changing significantly, meaning it is critical that people with the right mix of skills are attracted to governance roles."

Another major concern is the lack of diversity – 64 percent of current directors said that diversity was a key consideration in making new appointments. Despite that, female non-executive directors comprise only 15 percent of the total sample. Maori non-executive directors accounted for 1.6 percent of the sample.

Ms Diver says: "There are good economic arguments for getting the right skill mix, and gender, onto boards. Research shows even one woman on a board can enhance its performance. It's time to see the diversity statistics improve."

The New Zealand dollar is slightly weaker this morning.

It is trading at 65.41 US cents, compared to 65.78 at the same time on Friday morning. It is trading at 88.64 Australian cents, compared to 89.28 on Friday.

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