7 Dec 2018

Halifax investors 'struggling to see if we can celebrate Christmas'

6:55 pm on 7 December 2018

Investors who've traded millions of dollars through the online platform Halifax say they will struggle to celebrate Christmas while their main source of income remains frozen.

New Zealand's sharemarket has immediately fallen two percent after opening after the Waitangi Day closure. Global markets have been left reeling in the biggest one-day fall on Wall Street since 2011.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Creditors met with the administrators of Halifax and its Australian parent company for the first time in Auckland on Friday.

The lead administrator, Morgan Kelly of Ferrier Hodgson, told investors there was $A20 million ($NZ21m) of investor funds missing.

The 12,560 investor accounts were worth $A211m ($NZ221.6m), however only $A190m ($NZ199.6m) had been tracked down, he said.

Administrators were still working to locate the rest of the funds traded on third party platforms abroad, however investors would not receive any of it back until at least next year because administrators wanted to delay the next meeting by three months.

"We won't be able to get any distributions to investors before Christmas," Mr Kelly said.

"Some investors may see their funds earlier than [others], but it's too early to be able to tell."

One investor, Moon Goundar, had a handful of accounts with Halifax holding a total of $NZ700,000.

He said he would struggle to celebrate Christmas while the safety of his funds were in question.

"I don't feel good. We did not receive any concrete resolutions from the first meeting.

"We, as creditors, will be on the edge of insolvency, we'll be struggling to see if we can celebrate Christmas happily due to what we're going through."

A 21-year-old student and investor, Hamish Carter, invested $NZ10,000 of his personal savings and parent's money through Halifax in order to learn about share trading.

He said the situation was difficult but he would learn from it.

"From now, I know there's a lot more risk involved, not just in the exposure of what you're putting money towards, it's who it's with as well."

Mr Kelly reassured investors the administrators were on their side.

He told RNZ that New Zealand investors' funds were largely traded through a single platform, Interactive Brokers.

Most of that money had been located, however it could not yet be returned to investors because it was a mix of cash, equities and derivatives, he said.

Halifax New Zealand could restructure and continue trading, but its Australian parent, Halifax Investment Services, would probably be liquidated.

However, the process for either outcome could take years.

Mr Kelly drew similarities between Halifax and the three-year-long case of Sonray Capital Markets - an Australian investment firm that went bust, reportedly losing investors $A46m. Its founder was jailed for theft and fraud in 2014.

Mr Kelly said he compared the two to illustrate how complex the process would be, although he did not want to alarm investors.

A former Halifax broker, Ricardo Garrido, said the insolvency of the firm blindsided him.

Some former staff were helping administrators with their inquiry, and daily updates continued to be provided to the Financial Markets Authority.