Growth slows for listed New Zealand techs

It's been a week of warnings and lowered growth numbers from listed New Zealand tech stocks, but there is no obvious common cause.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

Listed tech stocks on the New Zealand Stock Exchange disappointed investors this week by either revealing slower growth or issuing warnings that forecasts would not be met.

GPS component maker Rakon, measurement technology developer IkeGPS and cloud accounting icon Xero all featured in the news.

Logistics and fleet technology company ERoad also reported sales delays as it developed US channels.

While the New Zealand economy remains outwardly healthy, all of these companies are export focused and significantly exposed to market changes overseas, especially in the US.
However, apart form that there appears to be no common cause for declining rates of growth.

Rakon is probably the most established and mature company in the group.

It warned investors underlying EBITDA of between NZ$9.0 million and NZ$10.0 million was now expected for 2016 compared with the previous forecast of NZ$15.4 million, provided in November.

That prompted a 20 percent plunge in the company's share price from NZ30c to NZ26c.

Rakon had expected that investment in infrastructure by major network operators would resume in the second half of its financial year, however, forecasts indicate this is likely to be delayed.

Rakon CEO Brent Robinson said he was very disappointed but remained confident that continued growth in data usage and internet connectivity would force network operators to upgrade infrastructure to maintain service levels and market share.

Machine to machine communications offered opportunities, he said.

"The potential of the internet of things to create new products and services provides opportunities for a company with our technological expertise and proven product development ability," Robinson said.

For IkeGPS, the 2016 full year revenue outlook had been impacted by the projected timing of orders relating to its Stanley Smart Measure Pro product.

Sell-through in the stores has exceeded plans and a wider US and European market roll-out was now underway.

However, timing of orders and shipments which had been expected in the second half of 2016, were now expected in the first half of 2017.

Guidance for 2016 income of between NZ$12m and NZ$14.3m. was reduced to NZ$9.2m to NZ$11.5m.

"This revised outlook represents between 2.4-times and 2.8 times growth against 2015 and between 4.9-times and 6.1-times growth against 2014, but is below that projected in the company's IPO offering document," it told investors.

"During these early stages of the company's sales cycle and rapid growth, and because of the newness of product offerings, quarter-over-quarter lumpiness of sales continues. It is expected that this condition will become less impactful as the business continues to gain scale and as recurring revenue streams increase."

For Xero reporting NZ$52 million in sales in the December quarter, the good news was that its rate of cash burn slowed.

Operating cash outflow shrank to NZ$6.5 from NZ$8.5 million in the same quarter of 2014. However, sales growth slipped to 62 percent from 72 percent in the September quarter.

That was "an area to watch", Forsyth Barr analyst Blair Galpin noted.

Xero CFO Sankar Narayan responded that slowing growth was to be expected as the company grew.

ERoad said its expansion in North America continues from early success in Oregon into Washington and Idaho. Channel growth is a priority and a number of partner evaluations is under way.

US Department of Transportation rule requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial vehicle drivers to record their hours of service had delivered a significant increase in customer engagement.

However, with channel sales cycles of between six and nine months ERoad expected 2016 unit sales up to 1,000 lower than the 6,000 forecast in September.

The glitch would have minimal revenue impact, the company said.

Strong growth continued also in Australia and New Zealand, again benefiting from regulatory changes.

"We can report that ERoad, through its business strategy and current technology platform, is very well placed to service the ELD opportunity in North America," said CEO Steven Newman.

Currency effects can have a big effect on the performance of export-oriented tech stocks.

New Zealand's currency is one of the most volatile in the world, however, the US$/NZ$ cross-rate has remained relatively stable between 62c and 68c for the last two quarters after a big decline from 76c in the June quarter.

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