By Aditya Soni
Aug 15 (Reuters) - Napier Port Holdings, the operator of New Zealand's fourth largest port by container volume, filed for an initial public offering (IPO) that would be the country's first major float in two years.
The offer, which looks to raise as much as NZ$234 million ($150.65 million) upon listing on Aug. 20, according to the prospectus, comes as New Zealand's exchange operator NZX Ltd struggles to attract new listings.
The company expects a NZ$520 million market valuation through the NZ$2.60 a share offer, which is at the top of the indicative price range, making it the country's biggest public offering since Oceania Healthcare rang the bell in 2017.
A two-year listing drought on NZX ended in June when cannabis firm Cannasouth Ltd listed publicly.
The dearth of new floats has attracted shareholder criticism lately, forcing the bourse to take remedial actions.
NZX partnered with Nasdaq Inc in 2018 to attract overseas investors. This year, it started a review of capital markets alongside the country's financial regulator and launched geographic revenue exposure indices with S&P Dow Jones Indices.
The bourse's Chief Executive Officer Mark Peterson said the initiatives are paying off.
"We have done a lot of work to reset the platform. We have looked at the listing rules, looked at the liquidity, the trading rules and more importantly talking to our issuers, so I think all of that have played a part," Peterson told Reuters.
"We are aware of more listings, it is still early days on those but we are hopeful," he added.
Jason Kururangi, an investment adviser at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Sydney said the "retail investor in New Zealand has not had a lot new stuff to look at...so this (Napier's IPO) should generate quite a bit of interest in the local market."
The industrials firm posted a net profit of NZ$17.6 million in fiscal 2018, a 5% growth over the previous year.
For fiscal 2019, it expects an adjusted net profit of NZ$19.2 million, with its maiden dividend following the offer in December.
The Hawke's Bay-based company plans to use the proceeds from the listing to reduce debt and fund the construction of a new wharf to increase the port's capacity.
NZX already plays host to Port of Tauranga, the country's biggest port by container volume, which has outperformed the local benchmark for nearly two decades, according to Refinitiv data.
The IPO of the port operator, which handles over 5 million tonnes of cargo per year, is being managed by Deutsche Craigs, Goldman Sachs and Forsyth Barr. ($1 = 1.5533 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)