How have ASX small caps responded to New Zealand’s reopening post-COVID?
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On Monday, New Zealand announced it had completely eradicated the virus and ended all COVID-19 restrictions barring its border closure — very welcome news for a handful of ASX-listed stocks.
Basically this means it is ‘business as usual’ for New Zealanders, other than international travel still being off the cards.
ASX stocks domiciled in New Zealand, some of which are dual-listed on the NZX, have risen by an average 4 per cent in the last week.
While this figure is modest, the easing of restrictions has been particularly welcome news for a handful of these stocks.
Although New Zealand’s external borders remain closed there are no restrictions on domestic travel. On Monday, right before Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s announcement, Air New Zealand said its recovery plan was in a “Survival” mode.
The next two stages were “Revive” and “Thrive” and it hoped the former would begin in 1 September. While it mentioned the easing of domestic travel was part of it, Trans-Tasman and Pacific Island flying was too and both are still some weeks away. It also said it was not factoring a return to long haul flying until 2021.
Serko has not commented since restrictions eased but noted in April that business travel disruption was impacting revenue.
Other stocks that likewise find it difficult to adjust to people being stuck at home have also rallied in the last week. Two examples are casino operator Skycity (ASX:SKC) and outdoor equipment retailer Kathmandu (ASX:KMD).
While the latter kept selling online, it closed most of its stores globally during the pandemic.
One sector that did not see a plunge, at least from a customer perspective, was the food & beverage sector.
It was a similar story with dairy stocks from giant Synlait (ASX:SM1) to small caps Keytone Dairy (ASX:KTD) continuing frontline operations but sending corporate workers home.
While theoretically companies are now free to bring workers back it will inevitably be up to individual companies.
AMP (ASX:AMP), an Australian firm with a presence in New Zealand, announced yesterday it was closing its Auckland and Wellington offices.
While it had planned the move prior to COVID-19, AMP’s New Zealand boss Blair Vernon said COVID-19 was the nail in the coffin because the pandemic showed a large remote workforce is possible.
HRL Holdings (ASX:HRL) was one stock that has updated shareholders this week saying it was now back to business as usual. It operates environmental and laboratory testing services including but not limited to the dairy sector.
At the lockdown’s strictest point only its food and water testing division was allowed to trade but it had re-opened and anticipates underlying revenue and earnings to be slightly higher than the preceding financial year.
The stock is actually towards the lower end of stocks in a weekly basis but is still up over 2,000 per cent since October last year.