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Morrison & Co. may manage funds for Fisher after buy-in

HRL Morrison & Co., the manager of Infratil, may also manage funds on behalf of Fisher Funds after acquiring a 26% stake in the closely held company.

Friday, November 14th 2008, 11:11AM

by Jonathan Underhill

Morrison & Co. executive chairman Lloyd Morrison said his firm is working with Fisher Funds on a new product that may be launched next month. He declined to give the price paid for the 26% stake, which has been on the market since former chief investment officer Warren Couillault quit the company and sold his holding to principals Carmel and Hugh Fisher.

“If they went down that route, we would be the manager,” Morrison said in an interview. Making the investment now “is better than buying at the top of the market,” he said. “It is countercyclical, like buying straw hats in the winter.”

Since Couillault’s departure, world equity markets have slumped, slashing returns for Fisher Funds’ listed investment units, Barramundi, Marlin and Kingfish.

Marlin Global, which invests in stocks outside of New Zealand and Australia, posted a net loss of $5.2 million for the period of September 6, 2007 to June 30 this year, the fund said in August. Barramundi, which targets smaller Australia stocks, reported a loss of $29.5 million.

Morrison said he is enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for the funds management industry in New Zealand, especially now that KiwiSaver has been added to the mix.

“KiwiSaver, for the first time in New Zealand’s history, is going to make the funds management industry viable,” he said. “Fisher Funds is a great franchise. This makes sense if you’re a longer-term player.”

“Fisher Funds is a great franchise,” Morrison said “Its track record and loyal client base makes them an ideal partner for Morrison & Co.’s in the funds management sector.”

Morrison & Co. manages infrastructure assets for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund as well as its role as manager of listed investor Infratil. Fisher Funds lost a mandate for New Zealand Super this year.

“The strategic partnership is an expression of optimism in the New Zealand economy, the long-term global outlook and the ability of the two firms to offer unique investment opportunities,” Carmel Fisher said.

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