'Upsides' to resort sale

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore says Cardrona Ski Area is a 'proven performer'...
Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore says Cardrona Ski Area is a 'proven performer' and a major Wanaka drawcard. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The announcement yesterday that Cardrona Ski Resort, near Wanaka, will be put up for sale has drawn a generally positive response from the ski and tourism industries.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore told the Otago Daily Times a change of ownership could lead to more development at the resort.

''If you are buying into something, you are not buying into it just to twiddle your thumbs. There's sufficient potential there to grow and develop the business.''

Toorak-based (Melbourne) Vealls Ltd yesterday announced restructuring plans to the Australian Stock Exchange, including the sale of the ski resort it has owned outright since 1990.

Mr Helmore said the ski resort was a ''proven performer'' and a major Wanaka drawcard and he expected any new owner would want to see that continue.

''They are likely to probably invest in the business, so it's all positive really.''

He believed the 345ha property had room for expanded facilities - including more accommodation, more lifts to open up more terrain, and more features to cater for a growing range of skiing disciplines.

''There are a whole lot of upsides and if you are buying into a business like Cardrona, you would want to see that upside.''

Snow Sports NZ chief executive Marty Toomey was reluctant to speculate on what effect a change of ownership might have.

''If someone purchased and changed the model it could have positive or negative implications.

''There are so many unknowns.''

He said the resort was a profitable business and ''you would hope someone would come in and at least maintain the status quo or potentially look to invest further''.

He did not consider it mattered whether the resort was owned locally or internationally and the Australian Veall family had been ''exceptional'' owners over the past 23 years.

Auckland-based Elevation Capital Value Fund, which owns about 2.75% of Vealls Ltd, lobbied for the restructuring that has led to the decision to sell Cardrona.

Managing director Christopher Swasbrook told the ODT yesterday it considered Vealls shares were trading at a ''sizeable discount'' to the true value of its assets.

''The sales process ... will potentially enable the company to realise the underlying intrinsic value of the asset base (specifically Cardrona) for the benefit of all shareholders.''

Mr Helmore expected any potential buyer would look closely at the issue of climate change but pointed out Cardrona was better placed, in terms of altitude, than other fields, such as Coronet Peak.

- mark.price@odt.co.nz

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