A new chapter was written in Australia’s stockmarket bubble today when Kerr Neilson, Australia’s finest international fund manager, emerged with a fortune exceeding $3.5 billion.
The Platinum Asset Management float exceeded all expectations today when the $5 shares opened at $8.50, peaked at $8.80 and then settled at $8.47 by midday in heavy turnover of almost 20 million shares over the first hour. I sold my 4,000 shares at an average $8.77, knowing that institutions would be scrambling to buy the stock after not receiving any allocations in the float as the top 20 reveals.
Neilson’s company is now Australia’s 60th most valuable with a market value of $5 billion, including the 27 million $5 options. However, his remaining majority stake is worth almost $3 billion, meaning he’s only behind Rupert Murdoch, James Packer, Frank Lowy and Andrew Forrest in terms of single investments in Australian listed companies.
At one level, Neilson is just someone who has got obscenely rich clipping the funds management ticket in the easiest game in town. However, whilst there are a lot of ordinary canoes paddling in this $1 trillion river of money created by Paul Keating, Neilson is unquestionably the stand-out performer.
A shy South African who traditionally shuns the media spotlight, Neilson will now have to put up with enormous attention because he is “Australia’s Warren Buffett”.
Many fund managers who only buy Australian stocks are a dime a dozen. If they don’t get the returns, some other local player will. What makes Neilson different is that he specialises in international investing for Australian retail investors.
In business terms he has been a brilliant marketer to the retail investment community and he’s done it again with the float by rewarding long term clients with bigger allocations of shares. Fashion queen Carla Zampatti must be a big backer of Platinum given she got 300,000 shares.
However, Neilson still had a hell of a record to sell – long term out-performance of international benchmarks — and he deserves every dollar of his wealth because he has literally created tens of billions of value for Australians. Punters gave him their money, he took it offshore, out-smarted his competitors on the global stage and delivered big returns over a long period of time. We need more of this.
That said, the paper wealth is still staggering. For instance, Platinum’s finance director Malcolm Halstead collected more than $15 million in the float but retains a stake worth $200 million. Similarly, portfolio manager Andrew Cliffford’s 6% stake is today worth about $280 million.