Fisher Funds in celebration mode

00:10, Feb 26 2013
Carmel Fisher
Fisher Funds' Carmel Fisher.

Champagne corks were popping this morning at Fisher Funds offices overlooking Auckland's Takapuna Beach as the firm celebrated becoming the biggest New Zealand-owned KiwiSaver provider.

Fisher's acquisition of Tower Investments for $79 million takes its total funds under management from $1.4 billion to $5.5b, ranking the firm fourth largest behind AMP, ANZ and ASB.

The combined KiwiSaver operations will manage $1.6b for 222,338 people.

Fisher Funds managing director Carmel Fisher said she was delighted to have concluded the transaction.

"For us KiwiSaver was the big attraction," she said. KiwiSaver and fund management in general benefited from significant economies of scale, "so we hope we can pass those savings on to clients."

Investors in Tower funds would notice no change initially and for at least six months the funds would continue to be run separately.

Fisher has rights to use the Tower brand for 12 months.

All Tower Investments staff, numbering about 69 people in Auckland and Wellington, will move to Fisher Funds on the same terms and conditions.

Fisher said she expected Tower's status as a default KiwiSaver provider, handling about $460m of client funds, would remain intact, although nothing had been confirmed as yet. "We've been talking to the minister throughout this process," she said.

The acquisition was a big mouthful for Fisher Funds, which had net assets of $5.3m at balance date in March last year.

The firm borrowed $17m from ANZ to buy Huljich KiwiSaver in May 2011 for $20.9m, and has taken on more bank debt and a new shareholder to help finance its Tower buy.

The new shareholder is TSB Bank, which will become Fisher's second largest shareholder after buying a 26 per cent stake for an undisclosed sum.

TSB managing director Kevin Murphy said the bank had offered KiwiSaver "from day one" but it was relatively low profile.

"This partnership allows us to expand."

After TSB staff were trained up in the Fisher and Tower products they would be distributing KiwiSaver through bank branches.

Tower shares eased 2c to $1.88 in morning trade.

Tower managing director Rob Flannagan said an announcement on how the $79m proceeds would be used "will be made in due course".