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Fisher Funds' Kingfish a late believer in Xero

Fisher Funds' Kingfish a late believer in Xero, sees ANZ profits

By Jonathan Underhill

Oct. 16 (BusinessDesk) - Kingfish, a listed investment fund that targets New Zealand shares, has added Xero to its holdings because it is more confident in the unprofitable accounting software company's earnings in its biggest market, Australasia.

"We have been reluctant to own Xero historically due to the lack of bottom line profitability, however, we estimate that the Australian/New Zealand businesses were profitable in the 2017 financial year and that Xero is on track to achieve higher group earnings this year and in the future," said Frank Jasper, chief investment officer at Fisher Funds, which manages Kingfish.

Xero shares have surged 103 percent this year, making the company third-best performer on the S&P/NZX 50 Index behind a2 Milk and Synlait Milk. It rose 1.1 percent to $35.48 today, valuing Xero at $4.9 billion. It has a March 31 balance date and last year narrowed its full-year loss to $69 million as revenue climbed 43 percent to $295 million. Of that, ANZ revenue rose 45 percent to $208 million and international gained 38 percent to about $88 million. Analysts have predicted that Xero will post a maiden profit in 2019.

Investors have had more than one opportunity to profit from the company's share price performance since it went public in 2007 with a strategy to chase sales growth ahead of profits. The stock soared to as high as $44.99 in March 2014 but had retreated back to $15 by October of that year.

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"Xero is a great example of a quality company with a number of positive attributes," Jasper said in Kingfish's monthly update. "It is the market leading provider of cloud-based accounting software for small-to-medium businesses and their accountants in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, with growing presences in the USA and other markets such as South East Asia. We believe that Xero will continue to be the innovator of the industry."

Earlier this month, Xero said it added 41,000 customers in the UK in the first half of its 2018 year, lifting the total to 253,000 as at Sept. 30, meaning it is now about the same size as its New Zealand market.

Kingfish hasn't updated its holdings to reflect the Xero shares and wasn't immediately available to give details of the stake. As at Sept. 30, its largest holdings were Mainfreight, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Freightways, Infratil and Ryman Healthcare. Its own shares rose 0.8 percent to $1.28 today and have fallen 6.6 percent this year.


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