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  • 01 Aug 2020 12:04 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    New Zealand businesses are not letting a global pandemic get in the way of opportunity.

    Wellington-based Antipodes Nature launched in the United States and Canada this month, despite ongoing concerns about Covid-19.

    In June, peanut butter company Fix & Fogg opened its first shop outside of New Zealand in Texas, United States.

    According to New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), New Zealand exporters sold $10.5 billion of goods and services to the North America last year.

    Antipodes founder Elizabeth Barbalich was in New York negotiating distribution for her skincare product range when the US began to lock down due to the spread of Covid-19 in February.

    While the global situation was uncertain, Barbalich decided to forge ahead with the US and Canadian launch.

    The US market had previous untapped potential for Antipodes, despite the uncertain economic environment, she said.

    During the lockdown, Antipodes’ 50 staff continued to work to prepare for the launch.

    Packaging had to be changed to meet US regulations, she said.

    Making the decision to push forward during the Covid-19 crisis was not straightforward. Stores that would otherwise stock Antipodes products and uncertain supply lines were closed.

    “It has been kind of exciting for us. I mean, we have been through the 2008 global financial crisis. We have seen the market go from hero to zero in a day. We have also seen the China market have massive swings. So, for us, this crisis is another market swing.”

    The company was working with a distributor in the US that had close ties to Amazon and was set up to ship directly to customers as well as get products on the shelves in stores, Barbalich said.

    Antipodes’ annual revenue target for this year was $100 million, with 85 per cent of sales coming from the company’s international markets, she said.

    Barbalich expected the North American market to grow to 10 per cent of the company’s annual turnover.

    Antipodes is now sold in New Zealand, Australia, in China through websites like Alibaba, Japan, the United Kingdom, France and in Sephora across the rest of Europe.

    Global expansion has not been all smooth sailing, says Barbalich.

    It took Antipodes Nature three attempts to find the right distributor in Australia, she said.

    “If we get a partner that has the same thinking, that’s 50 per cent of the problems solved. Otherwise, we have this push-pull situation where we are trying to push a distributor, and they are not moving at the same pace as us and it just makes it a lot harder.”

    Leigh Paulden, managing director at business advisory firm Scalable Sustainable Business Growth, said the US and Canada were still attractive markets for Kiwi businesses, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

    North America offered a huge pool of potential customers, he said.

    The US population was 331 million and the population of Canada 37 million.

    But on the flipside, the sheer volume of product required to meet demand dwarfed anything New Zealand companies could imagine, he said.

    Paulden encouraged his clients to limit what they offered when they launched.

    “Your volumes are so big compared to New Zealand’s market, which is tiny in comparison. So you have to really narrow down what you enter the market with,” he said.

    None of his clients had entered North America with their entire product range, and some focused on one state.

    One client recently launched just in California, he said.

    While they could technically try and launch in all 50 states, the company would struggle to manufacture enough product to keep up with demand, he said.

    Covid-19 had not changed the need to consider who a business’s ideal customer was and how it would distribute their product around the country, he said.

    By Debrin Foxcroft, Business Reporter, Stuff

  • 31 Jul 2020 1:20 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Flintfox International, a disruptive innovator, global leader and Gold Microsoft ISV, are honoured to receive the 2020 MSUS Partner Award for Retail.

    Flintfox are also proud to have achieved the prestigious 2020/2021 Inner Circle status. This is based on sales achievements that rank Flintfox in the top echelon of the Microsoft Business Applications global network of partners. Inner Circle members have performed to a high standard of excellence by delivering valuable solutions that help organisations achieve increased success. For the 4th time, Flintfox has been selected out of hundreds of partners for this elite membership.

    2020/2021 Inner Circle members are invited to the Inner Circle Summit, taking place August 26, 2020, where they will have a unique opportunity to share strategies, and network with Microsoft senior leaders and fellow partners.

    Flintfox, with their best of breed solutions for managing supply chain revenue, together with Microsoft, enable companies to achieve more in the US and beyond. With Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management and Flintfox’s pricing and rebate management solution, there has never been such a complete and powerful tool available for Supply Chain companies. Flintfox are proud to have had their achievements in the field of retail recognised by Microsoft.

    The Microsoft US (MSUS) Award program was developed to recognise outstanding achievement by their US partners. Flintfox was up against a very competitive nomination pool and rose to the top amongst hundreds of other partners and ISV’s.

    Many clients have trusted Flintfox to implement Dynamics 365 along with Flintfox TRM. Flintfox uses a raft of Microsoft technologies to deliver their best of breed Revenue Management solution (TRM and RMx) that are renowned in today's market, including; Azure SQL Database, Power BI, Dynamics 365 F&SC, Azure DevOps (Source Control, Work Item Tracking, Scrum Boards, CI/CD), Azure AD Azure VMs, Azure App Service ASP.NET Core and Azure Machine Learning Lifecycle Services.

    “Pricing is complex these days and managing pricing and incentives accurately for supply chain companies can be the difference between profit and loss. With Microsoft’s commitment to ERP innovation, breadth of functionality, and ease of use along with Flintfox’s competitive advantage in complex pricing and rebate management we are not just competing, we are winning.

    We are proud that our outstanding achievements globally have been recognised by Microsoft, this provides amazing testament to our company as we continue to grow in scale and influence. Looking forward to achieving even more wins with Flintfox and Microsoft - we make an incredible team.
    ” says Flintfox CEO and Chairman, Mike Ridgway.

    Flintfox has over 15 years of leading collaborations with Microsoft as an ISV, resulting in dozens of happy Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 ERP clients getting the solutions they need to succeed and grow. As well as bringing extended functionality to D365, Flintfox has recently developed the RMx hyper-speed pricing engine in the Azure cloud, that works with any ERP, to complement the Trade Revenue Management (TRM) Suite for Dynamics. RMx delivers 5,000 complex prices calculated per second in Azure. There is currently no other solution like it in the world.


  • 31 Jul 2020 12:37 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Forget In-N-Out Burger – US burger chain Five Guys is finally coming to New Zealand.

    The franchise, renowned for its made-to-order burgers with 15 toppings and American-style milkshakes, is expected to open next year.

    Seagrass Boutique Hospitality, the group behind restaurants The Meat & Wine Co, Ribs & Burgers, Italian Street Kitchen, and Hunter & Barrel, confirmed the chain would be coming New Zealand and Australia.

    Five Guys has more than 1500 outlets worldwide and counts the UK and Hong Kong as its major successes outside the US.

    Initial sites are now being scouted in Sydney, but it is not yet known where Five Guys plans to open stores in New Zealand.

    Melbourne and Brisbane will also be one of the first cities to open across Australia.

    Five Guys was founded in 1986 in Arlington County, Virginia, by Janie and Jerry Murrell and their sons Jim, Matt, Chad and Ben.

    Source: NZ Herald Business

  • 30 Jul 2020 1:18 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    NASDAQ: LAUR) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Strategic Education, Inc. (NASDAQ: STRA) for the sale of its Australian and New Zealand operations – Torrens University Australia and Think Education in Australia and Media Design School in New Zealand.

    The three operations have approximately 19,000 students enrolled in technical, undergraduate and postgraduate programs in a variety of academic disciplines, including Business, Education, Hospitality, Design and Creative Technology, and Health. Torrens University was founded by Laureate in 2014 and was the first new university to open in Australia in 20 years. Think Education joined Laureate in 2013, seven years after it was established. Media Design School, founded in New Zealand 22 years ago, became part of the Laureate network in 2011.

    Strategic Education, Inc. is an established operator of campus-based and online higher education institutions in the United States, including Capella and Strayer Universities.

    The purchase price is US$642.7 million and is subject to certain closing adjustments based on the aggregate working capital and indebtedness and on forecasted performance. Torrens University, Think Education and Media Design School will remain part of the Laureate International Universities network until the closing of the transaction, which is expected to occur by the first quarter of 2021. It is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by relevant Australian and New Zealand authorities and a mutual right of termination based on the occurrence of a material adverse change in certain forecasted performance.

    Commenting on the transaction, President and Chief Executive Officer of Laureate, Eilif Serck-Hanssen said, “This transaction is an outgrowth of the process Laureate initiated earlier this year to explore strategic alternatives for each of its business units. We’re incredibly proud of what our Australian and New Zealand teams have achieved – from establishing Australia’s first new university in two decades, to consistently delivering quality student learning experiences with high employability outcomes. We have built a highly efficient student centric culture focused on strong ties to employers and community partners – and we have been rewarded with robust growth and student loyalty. Under the stewardship of Strategic Education, Inc., I’m confident that our institutions will continue to be supported in delivering on their mission of providing highly innovative programs with high student satisfaction and strong outcomes.”

    Karl McDonnell, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Education, Inc., said: “We’re excited to be expanding our business into the Australian and New Zealand markets. We have been impressed by the growth and impact the three Laureate institutions have made and look forward to welcoming Torrens University, Think Education and Media Design School into our network.”
  • 30 Jul 2020 1:05 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Performance Insights, the largest Pipedrive CRM reseller globally and a leading sales software and consultancy firm to the Financial Services sector, today joins the FileInvite partner network in North America.

    The partnership adds FileInvite’s cloud-based secure personal data sharing product to Performance Insights’ portfolio of CRM, client portals and marketing automation solutions for customers in banking, insurance, wealth management and credit. Secure personal data sharing through FileInvite means banks and credit providers can more efficiently complete their due diligence on consumer applications, improving both the customer experience and compliance.  

    Interest in secure document transfer has surged as a result of the CARES Act and during COVID-19 as consumers turn to online transactions rather than visiting bank or mortgage brokers in person. FileInvite makes it easier for bank employees to receive and safely store customers’ financial documents without meeting in person. 

    Performance insights, which counts Wells Fargo and Bank of America as clients, offers File Invite an extensive network of consultants and decades of industry expertise which will allow new customers to onboard faster.

    The new partnership with FileInvite significantly improves document collection, a critical part of the loan and mortgage origination process that, historically, has been inefficient, time consuming and resulted in a poor user experience.  FileInvite offers a very efficient process to collaborate with clients, collect important financial documents and deliver a wonderful user experience - especially important when everyone is working from home.  We are very excited to introduce our clients and the financial services market in North American to FileInvite.
    Ron Buck, Founder & CEO Performance Insights 
    “We're excited to partner with a well established and trusted name like Performance Insights to bring secure data sharing to more companies across North America. New regulations and the pandemic are forcing change upon the collection of personal information, and FileInvite is positioned to solve this for consumers and their financial providers,.
    James Sampson, FileInvite CEO

  • 27 Jul 2020 12:00 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Pacific Edge Limited (NZX: PEB), has been notified by Novitas1 that the LCD: Biomarkers for Oncology (L35396) provides coverage for Cxbladder, CPT codes 0012M (Cxbladder Detect) and 0013M (Cxbladder Monitor), for tests performed on or after July 1, 2020 that are medically necessary.

    This includes reimbursement for all Cxbladder tests performed for patients covered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) across the USA, at the already determined national CMS price for Cxbladder of US$760 per test. The CMS provides healthcare coverage for all US citizens over 65 years, as well as assistance for healthcare coverage to people with low incomes.  CMS tests currently make up approximately 40% of Pacific Edge’s current Commercial Tests in the USA. Pacific Edge will also be seeking to negotiate reimbursement for the Cxbladder tests that have previously been completed and invoiced for CMS patients.

    CEO of Pacific Edge, David Darling, said: “This is a transformational milestone for Pacific Edge and the result of a number of years of hard work and effort from our teams in New Zealand and the USA. This long awaited outcome results from the generation of substantial clinical evidence, publication of numerous clinical papers demonstrating the compelling clinical utility and outperformance of Cxbladder, and growing commercial use of our tests by urologists in the USA and other markets.

    “Coverage under the LCD for our two Cxbladder tests with CPT codes2 will unlock access to the CMS revenue which currently represents approximately 40% of Pacific Edge’s commercial sales in the US. The coverage decision is also expected to positively impact on demand and positive reimbursement decisions from other healthcare organisations and payers as well. It signals a new phase in Pacific Edge’s commercial journey and we will be pushing hard on the back of this announcement to gain adoption of Cxbladder by other large scale healthcare organisations.”

    The LCD coverage notification comes hot on the heels of the signing of a commercial agreement with Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest non-profit healthcare providers in the USA, which was announced by Pacific Edge on 17 June 2020. Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest non-profit healthcare providers in the US, with over 12 million members and annual operating revenue of $84.5b3. It operates 39 hospitals, 714 medical offices and employs approximately 23,000 physicians.

    Cxbladder is already in commercial use by the majority of the public healthcare providers in New Zealand and many have adopted it into their guidelines for both the evaluation of haematuria and in the monitoring for recurrence of urothelial cancer.

    Chair of Pacific Edge, Chris Gallaher, said: “The LCD coverage signals a major step change for our company with the successful completion of the major reimbursement milestones in the USA. For a company from New Zealand, this is a huge  achievement and one of which we are very proud. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank our team who have worked tirelessly to make this happen and shareholders for their patience and support as we have worked to commercialise our Cxbladder technology.”


    1. NOVITAS is the CMS’s Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for Pacific Edge’s USA commercial reimbursement for CMS patients. MACs regionally manage policy and payment related to reimbursement and act as the fiscal intermediary for Medicare. MACs manage provider claims for payment and establish regional policy guidelines, called Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

    2. Administrative MAAA CPT Codes are issued by the American Medical Association (AMA) Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) Editorial Panel  and are a key component of the reimbursement process in the USA.

    3. Kaiser Permanente Fast Facts


  • 14 Jul 2020 10:03 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    One of New Zealand's leading medicinal cannabis companies has announced a second distribution agreement to the United States.

    NUBU Pharmaceuticals now has two deals with the first being with MGC Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a European cannabis-based biopharma company supplying GMP Phyto-cannabinoid derived medicines to patients globally.

    The second deal is with the US-based, global medicinal cannabis manufacturer and distributor Plants Not Pills (PNP), NUBU announced today.

    The global medicinal cannabis market is estimated to be worth over one hundred billion by 2026.

    NUBU's CEO Mark Dye, a former television and Newstalk ZB presenter, said the distribution agreements with MGC & PNP were an exciting development in the growth phase of the business.

    "NUBU is now one of the largest New Zealand based medicinal cannabis companies (in terms of patient numbers), and continuing to build a robust network of key partners, like MGC, will not only see revenue increase, but also help satisfy existing and future demand."

    Partnering with MGC, he added, will bring many other additional benefits as well.

    "MGC collaborates extensively with the world's best universities and companies to undertake extensive research and development across many healthcare areas, most exciting is their current research in neurological disorders, but they are also researching everything from cancer treatment through to autoimmune diseases. We are delighted to be working with MGC."

    The announcement comes after another Kiwi medicinal cannabis company, Rua Bioscience, signed an export partnership with a German distributor, the Herald revealed.

    Rua Bioscience, based on the East Coast, secured a deal with Nimbus Health, an independent pharmaceutical wholesaler which specialises in importing and distributing pharmaceutical-grade medicinal cannabis products in Germany.

    Founded in 2016 as a subsidiary of Hikurangi Enterprises Ltd, Rua Bioscience was the first company in New Zealand to be granted a licence to cultivate pharmaceutical-grade cannabis and the first to legally import high THC seeds in 2018.

    The company export-led growth strategy under the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme became operational in April.

    "We are aiming to fulfil the first exports under the partnership in the second half of 2021," Rua Bioscience CEO Rob Mitchell told the Herald.

    "While at this time we are not in position to confirm specific quantities or the value of the agreement, it is likely to amount to a few hundred kilograms in the first year of operation to a few thousand kilograms within three years."

    New Zealanders, meanwhile, will vote in September on a non-binding referendum over whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal, based on the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

    By: Sam Hurley New Zealand Herald business journalist

  • 08 Jul 2020 9:49 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Blenheim-based food producer Annies has fronted a million-dollar turnaround in profits over the past year despite disruption from Covid-19.

    Annies, which manufactures fruit bars and other snacks, entered two new export markets during the mandatory lockdown and pivoted its business model to deal with fallout from the pandemic.

    Sales across the brand are now higher than they were pre-Covid - and are soaring in the United States, where Covid-19 cases are growing by tens of thousands by the day.

    Bonnie Slade, sales manager for Annies, and Māori-owned parent company Kono, said sales in the US had accelerated significantly since it partnered with California-based subscription food box company Imperfect Foods in February.

    Covid-19 cases in the US have surpassed 3 million and more than 132,000 deaths have been recorded. In some states, including New Jersey, transmission rates have hit a 10-week high.

    Annies sales in the US through its undisclosed national retailer initially spiked in the US at the start of the pandemic and during lockdown before drying up. They have since returned to "near-normal" levels.

    "What we've seen worldwide, and it happened in New Zealand as well, with the restrictions of numbers allowed into supermarkets, and some people not wanting to go to supermarkets, we saw a big spike at the start ... but that petered off because were at home [baking]," Slade told the Herald.

    "On the flip side to that drop in demand, we saw huge demand from our US customer who is online."

    Annies sends product to Imperfect Foods under private label. It puts its own branding on and delivers the product along with other commercially unsellable items in a weekly food box.

    Slade said Annies was able to pivot and send more product to Imperfect Foods following demand loss from its retail partner quickly as the business experienced a surge in online orders.

    Imperfect's business had increased ten-fold through the pandemic and was already a popular growing business prior to the outbreak, she said.

    "They are seeing huge demand - they've got distribution centres all over the US - and many people are unwilling to go out so they are getting them online."

    Annies sold more than 8.5 million fruit bars over the past 12 months and sent almost 500,000 new products to Imperfect Foods in the past few months.

    The US is Annies' fastest-growing market, it is forecasting more than 420 per cent growth in the current financial year.

    Annies was founded 33 years ago and acquired by Kono in 2014. Slade said the company had spent the past 12-18 months to re-strategising the business for growth. As part of this Kono and its brands set out seeking partnerships with other organisations.

    The brand has been exporting to the United States since 2015 via an undisclosed retail chain and began sending product to Imperfect Foods during lockdown.

    It also launched into China during lockdown and began exporting to the Middle East with a private label customer two weeks before lockdown. At the beginning of lockdown at the end of March, it also launched four new products and updated its packaging.

    Other markets it exports to include Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.

    Slade said sales in the US despite the ongoing pandemic had exceeded expectations.

    Growth in the market had happened faster than the company had forecast, he said.

    "We knew Imperfect was going to be a good customer for us, we were not expecting the growth to be as fast as it has."

    Annies is now focused on growing its business in Australia and markets closer to New Zealand.

    Source: Aimee Shaw, a business reporter focusing on retail, small business, NZ Herald

  • 02 Jul 2020 11:52 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    VICTOR, N.Y., June 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE: STZ and STZ.B), a leading beverage alcohol company, today announced it has signed an agreement with Sazerac Company, Inc., one of America’s oldest privately held distillers, to divest the Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy brand, related inventory and interests in certain contracts for an aggregate of approximately $255 million. The deal is subject to certain purchase price and closing adjustments, requires FTC review and clearance, and is expected to close in the second quarter of fiscal 2021.

    Constellation has signed a separate agreement with E. & J. Gallo Winery to divest its Nobilo Wine brand and certain related assets and liabilities for $130 million, subject to purchase price and closing adjustments. The Nobilo transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2021. This agreement was previously announced in December 2019 and is contingent on closing the amended revised deal announced in May 2020 in which Constellation agreed to divest a portion of its wine and spirits portfolio principally priced at $11 retail and below, and certain related facilities to E. & J. Gallo Winery for approximately $1.03 billion, subject to closing adjustments, of which $250 million is an earnout based on divested brand performance over a two-year period after closing. This amended revised deal, which requires FTC review and clearance, and governmental approvals, is expected to close in the second quarter of fiscal 2021.

    “These agreements represent another step forward in our efforts to transform our wine and spirits business,” said Bill Newlands, president and chief executive officer at Constellation Brands. “Thanks to the continued hard work of our Constellation team members, together with our distributor and retailer partners, our strategy continues to gain momentum. We look forward to closing these transactions in the coming months.”

    Additional commentary related to these agreements will be provided during Constellation Brands’ first quarter fiscal 2021 results conference call to be held Wednesday, July 1, 2020, at 11:30 a.m. EDT. The conference call can be accessed by dialing +1-877-673-1771 and entering conference identification number 2076116, beginning at 11:20 a.m. EDT. A live, listen-only webcast of the conference call will be available on the company’s website,, under the Investors/Events & Presentations section.

    This news release contains forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. The word “expect” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain such identifying words. These statements may relate to business strategy, future operations, prospects, plans and objectives of management, as well as information concerning expected actions of third parties. All forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those set forth in, or implied by, such forward-looking statements.

    The forward-looking statements are based on management's current expectations and should not be construed in any manner as a guarantee that such results will in fact occur or will occur on any contemplated timetable. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this news release and Constellation Brands undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. The revised wine and spirits transaction, the Nobilo transaction and the Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy transaction are each subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions, including the receipt of required regulatory clearances and other governmental approvals. The Nobilo transaction is also conditioned on the completion of the revised wine and spirits transaction. There can be no assurance that the revised wine and spirits transaction, the Nobilo transaction, or the Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy transaction will occur or will occur on the terms or timetables contemplated hereby or that Constellation Brands will receive any earnout (contingent consideration).

    In addition to risks and uncertainties associated with ordinary business operations, the forward-looking statements contained in this news release are subject to other risks and uncertainties, including completion of the revised wine and spirits transaction, the Nobilo transaction, and the Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy transaction on the expected terms, conditions, and timetables; regulatory requirements; actual purchase price adjustments and other actual closing adjustments; the actual market performance of brands included in the contingent consideration payment opportunity; the accuracy of all projections; and other factors and uncertainties disclosed from time-to-time in Constellation Brands’ filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended February 29, 2020, which could cause actual future performance to differ from current expectations.


  • 29 Jun 2020 5:50 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    There's good news and bad news from the founders of Invisible Urban.

    The Auckland startup has landed tens of millions more worth of contracts in the US and gained backing from one of the biggest names on the American private equity scene.

    But at home, it's just been knocked back by the Green Fund and the PM's office.

    The powers-that-be that are dishing out billions in Covid stimulation money seem tech-averse, according to co-founder Nigel Broomhill. "Digging holes and laying roads is nice and simple," he says.

    When the Herald last caught up with Invisible Urban, in February, it had signed US$22.7 million (NZ$35m) in North American orders for its electric vehicle chargers - which it plans to operate on a pioneering charging-as-a-service model.

    Co-founders Nigel Broomhill and Jake Bezzant were targeting the likes of large property developers, city authorities and hotel chains.

    They had so far landed six anchor clients, including the on-again, off-again Ovation development near Nashville, Tennessee, which include about 130,000sq m of office space, two hotels, plus retail and restaurants over 58ha.

    The idea is that Invisible Urban owns and maintains the EV chargers at a location, monitors usage and adds more if demand dictates, clipping the ticket along the way.

    Its chargers will be contract-manufactured in NZ and the US.

    Broomhill also runs Charge Net, which will sell you an EV charger for your garage, while Bezzant had a four-year stint in charge of Parking Sense USA - the maker of sensors for managing carparks that was founded in the Waikato but made its bones with a monster 21,000-space contract in LA. If his face looks vaguely familiar, it could be because you've seen it on a billboard recently. The blue-green entrepreneur is standing for National in the Upper Harbour seat vacated by Paula Bennett when she went list-only.

    This week, despite the challenges of Covid-19, which has pushed out installations scheduled to start this year, Broomhill updated that Invisible Urban has had two major positive developments in the US.

    One, he says Invisible Urban's number of exclusive car parks has increased from 51,000 to 122,290, with the number of chargers that will be installed rising from 1278 to 3057 - pushing the initial contract value from US$22.7m to US$56.2m (NZ$80m). To put that in context, the contracts now cover five times as many EV chargers as are currently installed in NZ.

    And two, high-profile private equity player Eileen Murray has come aboard as a strategic adviser and minority shareholder.

    Murray was co-CEO of the world's largest hedge fund, the US$160 billion Bridgewater Associates, for the best part of a decade before stepping down in the New Year. She was recently confirmed as chair of Wall Street's latest attempt at a self-regulatory body, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra).

    Knockbacks at home

    The bad news is on the home front: recent approaches to the Prime Minister's office, MBIE and the Green Fund have all been knocked back.

    Broomhill and Bezzant initially focused on North America in part because of its scale (the US has roughly 1 million electric cars next to NZ's 20,000-odd) and partly because of its more EV-friendly regulatory environment. The coal-loving President Trump draws the most headlines, but at the state level, many governments now require 25 per cent of spaces in new carparks to be EV charger-ready. And Bezzant pointed out it was not just the usual suspects like New York and California. Georgia recently implemented a similar initiative. In NZ, new malls still get a token one or two EV slots.

    But with the coronavirus slowdown temporarily putting Invisible Urban's North American plans on hold earlier this year, and the Government asking for Covid stimulus ideas, Broomhill started to think about a plan to bring the company's model to NZ.

    He came up with a business plan to employee 200 people in skilled jobs, paid an average $70,000, to cover the design, manufacturing and installation of EV chargers.

    Broomhill was angling for a government loan of $85m over 10 years. He saw the government making $20m directly over the term of the loan, and much larger indirect benefits as a new industry was created, with export potential, and the potential to boost the so-far-sluggish uptake of EVs in NZ, which would in turn reduce emissions and improve air quality.

    Chicken and egg

    The Crown does have a history of subsidising chargers as part of the EECA's multi-year, $23.8m (and counting) effort to promote EV uptake.

    In an EECA EV round just closed, for example, Foodstuffs received $600,400 toward 15 fast chargers that will be installed at various urban and provincial supermarket carparks in partnership with the privately-held ChargeNet; the Warehouse Group received $265,588 for fast-chargers in eight locations; and ChargeNet also got a total $334,000 toward four new chargers in Taupo, plus chargers in Mokau and Palmerston.

    All up around 600 state-subsidised EV chargers are up and running, from a total of 1000 or so that have been funded.

    But the Government is still a long, long way from its aim to have at least one charging station every 75km. It's a chicken and egg situation. Few chargers and range anxiety slow sales of electric vehicles, and with few EVs on the road, charging network progress is slow.

    Broomhill's idea was that his loan-backed proposal would break that logjam. Or the funds could be used to make hundreds of chargers here for his company's North American contracts.

    He saw various signs of hope, from the thirst for Covid stimulus projects, to the presence of the ( now departed ) Rob Fyfe on the Government's business adviser panel to Invisible Urban's successful start in US and all the bona fides that provides.

    But so far, he's had no luck from his conversations with the Prime Minister's office, and his application to the Green Fund, which has just allocated its first funding, was knocked back.

    The Crown-backed, $100m Green Fund has just announced its first financing: $15m to Wellington's CentrePort for a project to electrify vehicles and generate renewable energy at the capital's main port.

    Broomhill says he sought $20m from the Green Fund, which would have created a new smart industry. "Instead [they think] it's better to provide a Wellington Regional Council-owned company with a $15m loan for something they haven't specced yet," he said.

    (The Herald has asked the the Prime Minister's office for comment. Environment Minister James Shaw declined to comment, saying the Green Fund was independent, and that it was up to the fund to issue any response to its decisions.)

    Green Fund CEO Craig Weise said, "Though we don't comment on the specific details about why we make those choices about any specific opportunity, there are many reasons – fit with our objectives, risk profiles, expected returns, maturity of the company, and other priorities in our pipeline, amongst others – why we would want take an opportunity forward, or not."

    Broomhill said he was not impressed by the general tenor of projects being funded by the Government as part of its billions in Covid-19 stimulus spending, which he sees as too focused on roading.

    "Tech is always a hard one for them to get their heads around. Digging holes and laying roads is nice and simple. Smart infrastructure, it's a bit harder," Broomhill said.

    Rebates required

    Broomhill's criticism came the same day as the Herald spoke to Mercury general manager of retail and digital Kevin Angland, who said his company wanted to more than triple its "Drive" EV leasing programme to more than 200 vehicles.

    However, limited models, and limited stock overall was a problem.

    The Government provides a range of incentives for EV owners, including a temporary break on road user charges. But Angland said there also needed to be a direct incentive, such as the US$7000 rebates offered to EV buyers in various US states.

    The coalition discussed a so-called "feebate" scheme, which would have seen importers of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles levied, to make EVs more attractive by comparison. However, that indirect approach was vetoed by NZ First.

    Angland still saw hope for some form direct rebate, however, depending on the mix of paries in power after September's election.

    Source: Chris Keall

    Business writer, NZ Herald