Dynamic Business: ASEAN key to ambitious trade goals (NZ Herald)

Dynamic Business: ASEAN key to ambitious trade goals (NZ Herald)

Over the past five years, New Zealand’s economic ties with Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have undergone significant growth, from $17.15 billion in 2017 to $27.42b in 2022.

With 10 member states, the union is New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner — we now trade more in a week with Asean than we did in an entire year in the early 1970s.

The National-led Government has set an ambitious trade goal to double the value of our exports within a decade. Despite the region navigating the same economic challenges that echo worldwide, it is clear Asean will be an important component in New Zealand reaching its lofty ambitions.

The NZ Asean Business Alliance Conference in Kuala Lumpur last month saw more than 250 attendees gather from across the region and New Zealand to explore the tremendous opportunities inherent in mutual collaboration. There is a keen interest to do more and a desire from Asean to deepen its ties with New Zealand.

An economic anchor

Dynamic Business: NZ ministers tout Government’s trade ambitions at US summit (NZ Herald)

Dynamic Business: NZ ministers tout Government’s trade ambitions at US summit (NZ Herald)

Key coalition ministers have articulated a unified vision for New Zealand’s future that embraces innovation, value uplift and enhanced diplomatic ties with the United States and beyond.

The have also pledged to undertake a record number of trade missions in the Government’s first term — more than any government in the history of New Zealand.

Speaking at last week’s United States Business Summit, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister Todd McClay delivered their first major speeches since the Government’s formation to a room packed with business leaders.

Peters outlined specific actions to unlock economic potential, including maximising the value of bilateral trade, resolving barriers to trade and strengthening supply chains. He stressed the importance of collaboration in industries that are key to building a more prosperous and secure future, including critical technologies and space.

He also spoke of the enduring and special relationship between New Zealand and the United States.

Silver Fern Farms’ Rob Hewett wins Chairperson of the year at Deloitte Top 200 awards (NZ Herald)

Silver Fern Farms’ Rob Hewett wins Chairperson of the year at Deloitte Top 200 awards (NZ Herald)

Rob Hewett, a prominent figure in New Zealand’s agribusiness sector, has been honoured as the 2023 Chairperson of the Year at the Deloitte Top 200 awards, celebrating his impressive leadership roles and the business success he has overseen.

Hewett is co-chair of Silver Fern Farms, a leading producer and global marketer of grass-fed red meat, owned in equal partnership by Silver Fern Farms Co-operative (a farmer co-operative that he also chairs) and Shanghai Maling Aquarius.

He is also chair of Farmlands Cooperative, Pioneer Energy, Woolworks, Fern Energy and Haulage.

Hewett has directorships at Pulse Energy and T&G Global.

Additionally, he actively manages a carbon-positive farm and participates in a think-tank for agricultural innovation.

Xero, Tourism Holdings, Grant Webster, Sir Richard Taylor, NZME among Deloitte Top 200 winners (NZ Herald)

Xero, Tourism Holdings, Grant Webster, Sir Richard Taylor, NZME among Deloitte Top 200 winners (NZ Herald)

Cloud accounting heavyweight Xero has been recognised as the Company of the Year in the 2023 Deloitte Top 200 Awards for its transformative year marked by significant milestones.

Winners in the prestigious Deloitte Top 200 Awards were revealed tonight at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre. Now in its 34th year, the highly anticipated black-tie dinner event saw close to 900 business leaders gather to celebrate the best of New Zealand business.

This year, the awards recognise outstanding agility, resilience and results despite the pressures that business leaders have faced. Notably, they have navigated through the persistent cost-of-living crisis, inflationary pressures, geopolitical complexities, global unrest, and the severe weather events earlier this year.

After a difficult year in 2022, Xero completed a significant restructuring and saw strong revenue, subscriber, and share price growth. Founder Rod Drury formally stepped down from the board of directors after 17 years, and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy has taken on the role of chief executive.

Last month, Xero delivered a strong bottom-line result for the half-year to September 30, reporting a revenue rise of 21 per cent to $799.5 million and net profit increasing to $54.1m, compared to a net loss of $16.1m in the first half of the previous financial year.

The panel of high-profile judges, convened by NZME business editorial director Fran O’Sullivan, note Xero’s outstanding performance.

“Xero is an extraordinary Australasian success story and our leading high-tech success unicorn. Its current market capitalisation of over $15 billion makes it the most valuable NZ company, and one of the top 20 companies on the ASX,” they say.

“Xero has maintained strong margins and is keeping a disciplined focus on costs. This resulted in adjusted Ebitda up by 44 per cent in 2023 over 2022 and a share uplift of 44 per cent for the year ended September 30, 2023.”

Grant Webster, CEO of Tourism Holdings, was named Chief Executive Officer of the Year for his exceptional resilience and strategic prowess, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His leadership was crucial in navigating the world’s largest campervan rental company through a drastic downturn in international travel. By selling assets to protect shareholder value, he achieved record results, showcasing his ability to make tough yet effective decisions.

“Webster’s 15-year tenure as CEO has been defined by steering the company through major crises and positioning Tourism Holdings for future growth,” say the judges. “Tourism Holdings’ strategic expansion, combined with Webster’s adept relationship-building, spurred a remarkable financial recovery: turning a $2.1m loss into a $49.9m profit and a 92 per cent increase in revenue.”

“His legacy is that of a transformative leader who successfully converted challenges into opportunities for innovation and growth.”

The Visionary Leader award is the only one given without finalists. This year, the award went to the creative duo behind Wētā Workshop, Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. Renowned for their award-winning work on blockbuster films, their influence extends to tourist attractions, a digital game studio, and cultural collaborations in China.

“Sir Richard and Tania’s passion and creativity has brought imaginations to life, inspired millions, and put New Zealand’s creative industry on the world map,” say the judges. “They are New Zealand icons and true visionary leaders.”

Chairperson of the Year has been awarded to Rob Hewett. A prominent figure in New Zealand’s agribusiness sector, Hewett is co-chair of grass-fed red meat producer and marketer Silver Fern Farms and chair of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative. He is also chair of Farmlands Cooperative, Pioneer Energy, Woolworks, Fern Energy and Haulage and has directorships at Pulse Energy and T&G Global.

“Hewett has a very clear vision for the businesses he chairs, he communicates that well and maintains solid relationships with his managing directors,” the judges say.

They recognise that last year was a banner year for Silver Fern Farms and applaud Hewett for playing a significant role in its result, which saw a net profit after tax of $189.3m, representing an 82 per cent increase.

Xero’s chief financial officer, Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, was also recognised last night, taking out the award for Chief Financial Officer of the Year.

The judges say that during Godfrey-Billy’s five years as CFO, Xero New Zealand’s revenue has increased from about $550m to $1.4b – up 250 per cent.

“Godfrey-Billy is respected by the market, board, management and other stakeholders for her financial management over this period of growth, which includes developing and maintaining financing and tax management in multiple countries,” they say.

“During her time as CFO, the company has moved from a start-up approach in which revenue is paramount, to a more mature company, where revenue and profit growth are both important.”

Port of Auckland has been named winner of the Most Improved Performance award, for its remarkable turnaround in profitability and operations.

“By establishing effective strategies, the port has improved its financials, union relationships, health and safety practices, and operational performance,” the judges say. “Its profits and revenue have skyrocketed – with profit up $50.7m on last year and revenue increasing from $265.3m to $320.2m. The port has nearly doubled the dividend it pays to Auckland Council, which really demonstrates its commitment to delivering returns to shareholders.”

Natural health products provider Comvita has been recognised with the Best Growth Strategy award. The judges say its recent transformation programme, focused on sustainability and storytelling, has helped consumers connect with the brand, and secured rapid growth for the company.

“Comvita has seen strong business performance in China, its key growth market, where it has grown its revenue to $100m. It has also increased its e-commerce share of total sales from 23 per cent to 42 per cent.”

Penny Dell, Treasurer at ANZ, has been named Young Executive of the Year. She is the youngest and first woman to hold the role of Treasurer which involves the management of the funding, capital and liquidity of the bank’s $189b balance sheet – a critical, strategic position for New Zealand’s largest bank.

The judges say Dell is performing at a high level within a very large organisation: “She holds a position of great responsibility within the ANZ organisation and is clearly recognised as a valuable asset”.

Her time in the job has been through a period of significant market volatility. Dell has been responsible for completing many successful funding and capital transactions that have given her bank a competitive advantage.

Deloitte Top 200: Contact Energy wins Sustainability Leadership Award (NZ Herald)

Deloitte Top 200: Contact Energy wins Sustainability Leadership Award (NZ Herald)

Contact is dedicated to playing its role in creating a more sustainable future for New Zealand by leading the country’s decarbonisation efforts, and is making significant progress to achieving net-zero carbon by 2030.

This long-standing commitment to sustainability from the gentailer, coupled with the actions it has made, made it a stand-out winner for the Deloitte Top 200 Sustainability Leadership Award. The award recognises exemplary governance, leadership, accountability and long-term perspectives from companies as they evolve and adapt their business models to support and drive sustainable development.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges commended Contact for its significant efforts to decommission assets that generate electricity from fossil fuels, signifying a clear shift towards renewable energy sources and a clear intent to help decarbonise New Zealand, despite the absence of an overarching national energy strategy.

“We are impressed that Contact’s efforts in the space are driven and supported by leadership and filter across the national business. They have created a galvanising framework for decarbonisation that attracts diverse talent and genuine innovations for sustainability actions,” said Katie Beith, one of the judges in this award category.

Contact is actively investing in the future of sustainable energy with $1.2 billion in renewable generation currently under construction. This pipeline of projects includes geothermal, solar, wind and grid-scale batteries, which will see it not only reduce its carbon profile but also assist its customers in their decarbonisation efforts.

Contact chief executive Mike Fuge is enthusiastic about what this means for the future of New Zealand. “These investments are key to enabling Aotearoa New Zealand to meet its decarbonisation goals,” he says.

“We expect our generation portfolio to be more than 95 per cent renewable by FY27 and have set the ambitious goal to achieve net-zero emissions from our generation operations by 2035.”

Contact’s efforts have already boosted its renewable energy capacity to more than 80 per cent and led to a remarkable 33 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from generation since 2018.

Its world-class geothermal development near Taupō, Tauhara, will come on-stream in 2024.

It will be Contact’s sixth geothermal power station in the Taupō area.

Contact now has a pipeline of projects ahead of it in Taupō, including an expansion of its Te Huka geothermal plant and a replacement of the 1950s-era Wairākei geothermal power station.

“The wonderful thing about having a pipeline of projects around Tauhara is we can attract the workforce in for a project, and they get the opportunity to roll off on to the next project,” says Fuge.

The judges say a particularly commendable aspect of Contact’s sustainability efforts is its commitment to meaningful engagement with iwi and hapū, especially at the Tauhara plant, which shows a deep respect for indigenous involvement in sustainable energy projects.

In addition to its geothermal projects, Contact is pursuing other renewable energy projects, including a solar project at Christchurch Airport which will have around 300,000 solar panels on 300 hectares of land adjacent to the airport’s runways.

It is looking to develop a wind farm on the elevated land east of Wyndham in Southland.

This would be Contact’s first wind farm project and, with a plan for about 55 turbines generating as much as 300 megawatts of power, it would be New Zealand’s largest.