April 5, 2024

New Zealand News

All Change At The Top Of Fletcher Building

In further news on the transition process at Fletcher Building, Nick Traber was due to assume the role of acting CEO of the company, effective from March 29. He will hold that position for an interim period until a permanent CEO is appointed. This follows the sudden announcement in February that Fletcher´s CEO, Ross Taylor, would leave his post after six and a half years in charge. Mr Taylor will remain available to support Mr Traber and the business as required until August 23 this year. Mr Traber had been chief executive of the company’s high-performing concrete division since January 2021. His tenure saw an improvement in the operational performance of the division, along with a strong financial performance. Prior to joining Fletcher Building Mr Traber held CEO roles in Europe and South America within the leading concrete and building materials company, Holcim. The search for a new CEO will include Mr Traber as an internal candidate. The process for a permanent CEO will conclude following


the appointment of the new company Chair. Current Chairman, Bruce Hassall, will step down at the annual shareholders´ meeting in October. As also previously announced, a Board renewal process is underway to identify replacement directors and the appointment of a new Chair. Board member Doug McKay will step down at the end of June, and Rob McDonald has said he will not stand for re-election and will retire from the Board at the October shareholders’ meeting.

The news from Fletcher Building is not all about shuffling deck chairs. An innovative project called BUILDhers, under the auspices of Fletcher Living, has reached completion. To highlight the under representation of women in the construction industry, the aim was for an all-woman crew to build a residential home. In New Zealand, less than 16% of tradespeople are women, with only 3.8% on the tools, according to Stats NZ. The now-completed four-bedroom, two and a half-bathroom home in Auckland was planned, designed, engineered and built by a team of more than 40 women. On International Women´s Day in early March, the Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, said he hoped the project would encourage more women to pursue and establish successful careers in the construction industry. Aurelie Le Gall is Fletcher Living´s Auckland North branch manager and the woman behind BUILDhers. She said that although the BUILDhers project aimed to be a 100% female build, a severe lack of female inclusion in the industry was the hurdle they couldn’t quite overcome. Finding women with the right level of experience in key trades such as scaffolding meant the project finished up being an approximately 75% female build. “We could have pushed out delivery of the build to keep it all-female, but the point of the project was to be a real build, with real timelines and budgets: otherwise, what point would we actually be making?” said Ms Le Gall. She added that the BUILDhers project had finally established a community of capable and experienced women who will inspire the next generation of females to consider a career in trades. She hoped this will also see many find a pathway to financial independence.

New Zealand officially entered its second recession in 18 months when Stats NZ announced the country´s GDP had contracted by 0.1% in last year´s December quarter. This followed its 0.3% shrinkage in the three months ending last September. None of this was a surprise: the economy has now contracted in four of the past five quarters. However, it is all bad news for the steel industry and is reflected clearly in the number of home building consents issued, which fell by 25% during 2023. The latest figures (for February 2024) were released by Stats NZ on April 4 and show a 6.0% decline on the previous February. “Fewer new homes were consented in February 2024 than in each of the previous five February months,” said Michael Heslop, Stats NZ´s construction and property statistics manager. “However, the number of new homes consented was still higher than any February month between 1975 and 2018.” That said, there were 20,775 multi-unit homes consented in the year ended February 2024, down 25% compared with the year ended February 2023. The number of stand-alone houses fell 24% to 15,501 over the same period.

Steel demand is inextricably linked to home construction activity. Thus, the further weakening of the New Zealand economy and the resultant hesitancy by prospective homeowners to convert their desires into reality will most likely dampen steel demand in that sector. Additionally, with no indications evident of a resurgence in global economic activity – with its positive knock-on effect upon the New Zealand economy – the steel industry has little choice but to weather the storm. The next meeting of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is scheduled for April 10, at which it´s expected to follow the example set by other central banks around the world and maintain its official cash rate (effectively, interest rates) at the current level. So, the struggle continues.

* This month´s New Zealand Steel News was authored in-house by Australian Steel News