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Ngāi Tahu takes a bite of Rockit, Punchbowl ups stake

9th March 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

Hawke’s Bay apple producer Rockit Global has completed a capital raise which has seen new investor Ngâi Tahu Holdings join the fold and foundation shareholder Punchbowl up its stake.

The miniature apple company, led by new chief executive Mark O’Donnell, did not disclose the value of the raise but confirmed the iwi investor has taken a 6% stake, marking the start of what was described as a strategic partnership.

“Ngâi Tahu Holdings expressed an interest in Rockit early on in the process, recognising there was alignment with its strategic goals,” Rockit chairman John Loughlin said.

“We also see great strategic value in this relationship – value that stretches far beyond the benefit of the significant investment Ngâi Tahu Holdings has made in our business. Ngâi Tahu Holdings has ambitious plans, and we envisage an exciting future with its support.”

Ngâi Tahu Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio added that the investment “will benefit both sides by providing Rockit with more capacity for future orchard developments, as well as further diversifying and increasing the growth profile of our portfolio.”

The capital raising process, which kicked off last year with offers to growers and existing investors, also saw a Punchbowl Investments-led group, PB Rock, to lift a combined Punchbowl and PB Rock stake to 15%.

“The Punchbowl group is pleased to be taking one of the lead roles in the capital raising,” says Punchbowl’s executive chairman, Rob Craig.

“We have supported Rockit at every turn and we are pleased to see the business taking another step forward. Rockit is an exciting opportunity and is proving to be a very strong player in the global premium apple sector.”

According to a 2017 report from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Punchbowl Investments then held a 12% stake in the group.

Pioneer Capital remains the largest stakeholder holding about 40% Rockit said. The Auckland private equity firm initially invested in the company in 2017 when it and fellow PE firm, Orien Capital, bought out Rockit founder Phil Alison.

Rockit is currently sold in 29 countries around the world, making a play for India last year. The apples, for which Rockit holds exclusive global rights, are grown in nine countries including NZ.

Loughlin said Rockit has been on a sharp global growth trajectory, and added that that the capital-raise enables several high-profile projects to move forward.

“Our business is expanding rapidly, and with growth comes the requirement for capital,” he said.

“Our state-of-the-art packhouse and headquarters located in Irongate, Hastings is nearing completion, and its second phase will take a large portion of this funding.

“We’ll also look to establish our own orchards – which diversifies our business – and support strategic global sales and marketing activity. As well as these investments in physical assets, we are also investing heavily in our brand and people capability.”



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