Mercer Group readies for rebuild

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2013

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Stainless steel manufacturer Mercer Group is readying itself for the Christchurch residential rebuild, hiring staff, upgrading its manufacturing base and adding sporting celebrities to its front line.

The NZX-listed group has appointed husband-and-wife team Julie and Dallas Seymour as ambassadors to raise its profile in the Christchurch market.

The appointment of sporting stars follows others in the Canterbury business world.

Clothing retailer Postie Plus uses former athlete Jayne Kiely in marketing campaigns and rugby icon Richie McCaw is a brand ambassador for Versatile Homes & Buildings.

Mercer Group's share price has been on the increase over the past 12 months after a recapitalisation, though one broker described the gains in recent weeks as "a bit over-done".

The stainless steel manufacturer has already reported a Canterbury earthquake-related pickup in demand for its products that include kitchen sinks and imported basins and toilets. However, it is waiting for the real residential rebuild to start.

Christchurch businessman Humphry Rolleston owns a 35 per cent chunk of Mercer, and chief executive Rodger Shepherd last year injected $1 million of capital into Mercer, giving him about 18.78 million shares or an 8 per cent stake.

Yesterday Shepherd said one of the group's three divisions, Mercer Interiors, was re-energising itself ahead of a projected building boom in New Zealand with a new distributorship of Wilsonart laminates, and the launch of new ranges of sinkware.

The appointment of former Silver Ferns netball captain Julie Seymour and former All Black Dallas Seymour as ambassadors was for two years.

"We want to keep building stronger ties with the community and by working with Canterbury Netball in particular, we are really pleased to appoint [this] well-known sporting couple."

Mercer Interiors division general manager Hayden Searle said the 130-year-old division had recently added the US-based Wilsonart laminate range to its sales mix based on sinkware and stainless steel kitchen tops.

"We are also retooling our manufacturing base in Christchurch to provide a new modern range of sinkware that is about to be launched into the New Zealand market in the next few months."

Mercer Interiors has increased its sales staff over the past few months as part of a strategy to work closer with customers, Searle said.

Mercer shares have risen from less than 6 cents a share in January 2012 to close 2 cents higher yesterday at 30 cents.

Hamilton Hindin Greene broker Grant Williamson said Mercer shares were tightly held by investors, meaning there were few willing sellers and low liquidity on the NZX.

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"I think this price rise is quite a bit exaggerated . . . It's up 40 per cent in the matter of a week or so [with] no news or anything."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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