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A lower-risk alternative to trading in futures markets

By Peter V O'Brien

Friday 6th October 2000

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Buying shares in companies that either deal in commodities or use them for manufacturing processes can be a better approach to commodities than operating in futures markets. The sample of New Zealand companies in table IV should not be considered exhaustive because covering all companies would require a reprint of the share table.

Affco

The meat processor is due to report in November for the year ended September 30. Affco's interim report issued in May showed a profit of $7.4 million compared with a loss of $4.8 million in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Chief executive Ross Townshend said the market outlook for all the company's products was encouraging and the upturn in overseas markets was already being reflected in the schedule price to farmers.

  • Latest price 40c, 2000 high 46c, low 32c

Carter Holt Harvey

This is one of the companies that gets advantages and disadvantages from price rises for commodities and movements in the exchange rate because it has imported inputs for some of its operations, although its forestry and forest products divisions, including pulp, paper and tissue, are the major parts of its business.

The share price has not done too well this year but it could come again.

  • Latest price $1.64, 2000 high $2.52, low $1.60

Cavalier

Cavalier Corporation is getting out of its wool business after continuing deterioration, leaving the company's main operation as a carpet maker.

The company's preliminary report for the year ended June 30 said its carpet business in Asia had increased more then fourfold in the past two years. There has been a good rise in the share price this year.

  • Latest price: $4.25, 2000 high $4.59, low $3.05

Fletcher Forests

Fletcher Forests was abandoned in 1998 when the share price went from $1.43 at the end of 1997 to 63c on December 31 of the following year. It dropped to a 1999 low of 51c in 1999 but has improved this year.

There may be some benefits for holders if FCL's dismantling process continues in the coming months

  • Latest price 81c, 2000 high 93c, low 51c

Grocorp

The company is involved in apple production and export, the latter either through Enza or on its own account. Most investors are aware of what has been happening with Enza in recent times. Grocorp's share price has been in difficulty for some time and seems unlikely to show any substantial improvement in the near future.

  • Latest price 14c, 2000 high 24c, low 10c

Sanford

Companies involved in fishing also get the effects of downturns in the currency on both their input costs and export returns. Fishing vessels use fuel and fish exports are subject to fluctuating market prices overseas as well the benefits of a low exchange rate, provided the latter is well-managed. There is also a specific factor applicable to the industry that differentiates it from commodities in that a tonne of, say, nickel is indistinguishable from any other tonne but fish come in different species and market conditions can be different for each type. Sanford's share price retreated in the past nine months but is still 18% higher than at the end of 1998.

  • Latest price 4.40, 2000 high $5.95, low $4.15

Tasman Agriculture

Companies dealing in dairy produce are winners and that has been reflected in Tasman Agriculture's share price this year. A 68.7% increase in nine months should please shareholders. The company's recent reports suggested there should be good profits from the state of the dairy industry.

  • Latest price $1.35, 2000 high $1.38, low 71c

Wrightson

Wrightson has come back from the shallow grave it dug for itself with a strange reorganisation which has now been "de-reorganised." The company has a way to go before it reaches acceptable profitability, a point it admitted in the preliminary report for the year ended June 30. The market has acknowledged progress with a lift in the share price, although at the end of September it had come back from the year's high.

  • Latest price 53c, 2000 high 68c, low 35c
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