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Ryman won't rush into strong opportunity in east

By Paul McBeth

July 25 (BusinessDesk) - Ryman Healthcare chief executive Gordon MacLeod sees very strong aged-care opportunities on Australia's eastern seaboard, but won't be rushed into expanding be-yond Victoria.

The company's board and management received largely positive feedback from shareholders at today's annual meeting in Orewa, with investors engaged and keen to ask questions.

In response to questions about the opportunity across the Tasman, MacLeod agreed that there are opportunities in Australia. However, he said the focus is on Victoria for now and doesn't want to move too quickly.

Australia's federal government last year ordered a royal commission of inquiry into the nation's aged care services, which has unearthed numerous instances of poor care.

MacLeod said it is crucial for the company to provide good care, which was among the reasons why the retirement village operator and developer matched the increase in salaries for registered nurses by the district health boards.

"We do believe there's a very strong opportunity in the Australian market because we do have a very, very strong care philosophy," he said. "There's a large opportunity across the eastern sea-board of Australia. What we're focused on right now is our very solid business in Victoria - we want to do that really well."

In a related question, chair David Kerr said the board isn't currently pursuing a secondary ASX listing and had been put off in the past due to the cost. Kerr said the company had managed to attract international investors as an NZX listed firm.

That was backed up by a vote of confidence in Ryman's performance by the representative of German investor Langfristige, which owns about 1 percent of Ryman, who praised the 2019 per-formance and ongoing focus on building long-term value.

Kerr told shareholders that the board doesn't focus on the share price, which recently traded at $13.08 and up almost 22 percent so far this year.

Deputy chair Warren Bell, who chairs the audit and financial risk committee, told shareholders the major risks they're focused on are health and safety on construction sites and, within the vil-lages, ensuring Ryman provides high-quality clinical care, recruiting and retaining the right peo-ple, and managing its construction programme.

Ryman has 20 villages with more than 7,000 beds and units in its landbank, and is targeting work to be underway on 12 sites during the current year.

Kerr said the company's first-quarter trading was satisfactory and that there will be more devel-opment in the second half of the March financial year.


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