Chinese whiteware maker Haier's $1.20 bid for Fisher & Paykel Appliances appears to be gaining traction, with the takeover target's share price closing above the offer for first time yesterday.
The kiwi firm's shares closed the trading day at $1.205, their highest level in four years and a 64 per cent premium on Fisher & Paykel's trading price before the offer was made at the beginning of September.
As of yet there is no indication of how many shares Haier has secured with its offer, but the ½ a cent premium suggests the shares are in demand, presumably to sell into the bid or on expectations that the Chinese firm may have to lift it's offer if institution shareholders dig their heels in.
Minority shareholder Tower has called the offer a "steal" and values Fisher & Paykel at over $3 per share. Meanwhile Australian fund manager Allan Gray has entered into a lock-up agreement to sell its nearly 18 per cent stake in the firm to the Chinese bidder, which is looking to own at least half, and ideally all, of the kiwi company.
Haier's proposed takeover of Fisher & Paykel Appliances would be the Cinderella story of whiteware brands – uniting royalty and a relatively unknown commoner, retailers say.
Chinese company Haier is making a bid to own at least half, and ideally all, of the Kiwi company, offering $1.20 a share. An independent report on the offer is due next week.
The two brands occupy different ends of the market – with Fisher & Paykel in the mid-to-upper end, and Haier – one of the biggest whiteware manufacturers globally but with a small reputation in New Zealand – in the low-to-mid range. Where they roughly overlap F&P's products are considerably more expensive.
While retailers claim the Kiwi company's products are among the most reliable, consumer watchdog Consumer New Zealand says the brand's reliability is only average.
Smiths City Group general manager Martin Simcock said Fisher & Paykel was the iconic New Zealand brand, while Haier had not been around for long and was not well-known.
"Haier are very much entry level. You get what you pay for."
But in saying that Haier, which is distributed by Fisher & Paykel in New Zealand, had "some pretty exciting products", particularly in the fridge category, he said.
F&P lead the pack in laundry, thanks to its smartdrive washing machine technology, he said.
Loyalty to the F&P brand was still very strong, Simcock said. Their products were "extremely reliable" and F&P had a reputation for great service. The brand was the group's best seller and "still by far the number one brand in New Zealand".
But Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said Fisher & Paykel dishwashers and DishDrawers had rated a "below average" for reliability in a May survey of its members about breakdowns and repairs – largely reflecting problems with the DishDrawers.
Haier dishwashers were more highly regarded, rating "average"
Across the board, Fisher & Paykel products were rated average for reliability, while Consumer's equivalent organisation in the United States did not rate F&P "that well" for reliability, she said.
"But some of their fridge-freezers rate pretty well with us. The DishDrawers have improved over the years but it's the one area where they seem to be most unreliable."
Consumer had not surveyed the Haier brand in other categories because it was not a big brand here, she said. It rated European brands Miele and Bosch as two of the most reliable.
Wayne Johnson, from Napier store Kitchen Things, said the Haier brand was gathering momentum and was generally good quality. "People are starting to know it."
People furnishing cheaper new "spec" homes often went for Haier.
Where Haier and Fisher & Paykel did have similar specced products, Haier probably sold more because it was cheaper, he said.
Fisher & Paykel still made "fantastic" upper-end products, while their mainstream products were probably the most reliable and well-made in the market, he said.
Noel Leeming Group merchandise manager Carolyn Elsmore said Haier was not the lowest-end brand and had reasonable exposure.
"It's got some good-quality products in there.
"We've had no quality issues with Haier at all. It's just that Fisher & Paykel is probably higher-featured or higher-specced."
Haier 324 litre chest freezer $1050; Fisher & Paykel 276 litre chest freezer $1250
Haier stainless steel dishwasher with seven programmes and 12 place settings $897; Fisher & Paykel stainless steel dishwasher with six programmes and 14 place settings $1100.
Haier 5.5 kilogram top load washing machine $499; Fisher & Paykel 5.5kg top loader washing machine $649.
Sources: Noel Leeming and Harvey Norman.
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