One of New Zealand’s longest-serving business commentators, Brian Gaynor, took out the New Zealand Shareholders' Association ‘Beacon’ Award at last night’s annual business journalism awards.

Published for many years in the NZ Herald, Gaynor has been writing for BusinessDesk since the beginning this year and is a shareholder and investor in the independent news publisher.

Gaynor, who was also a co-founder of Milford Asset Management, had won the Beacon prize once before, in 2006.

In a speech accepting the honour, Gaynor said he had been observing the NZ capital markets for 44 years and that he divided that time into two periods: pre-2001 was "the Dark Age" and since then "a More Enlightened Age."

Dark and light

The first period was characterised by a "lawless" listed companies environment and a disregard for investors' rights, in which companies could be taken over in "dawn raids" that no ordinary shareholder could see coming.

Since 2001, there had been the institution of a formal Takeovers Code, which was initially resisted by market participants, and major steps such as the establishment of the Financial Markets Authority and associated legislation to replace a previously "toothless" Securities Commission.

However, there were still major issues for the NZ markets, including the concentration of sharemarket activity in the hands of a small number of large broking houses and the growing incidence of NZ companies choosing the ASX over the NZX as their preferred listing venue.

Shonky propositions

He warned also that the current low-interest rate environment was already leading to a proliferation of "more and more shonky investment propositions."

BusinessDesk journalists Pattrick Smellie, Gavin Evans, and Brent Melville were finalists in all three categories – features, commentary, and news.

However, the big winner on the night was independent publisher Newsroom, with journalist Nikki Mandow – and one-time BusinessDesk staffer - taking out the Business Journalist of the Year Award.