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Non-bank funder loses CEO amid ‘intense’ pressure

An ASX-listed business with a family office that funds a non-bank lender saw its share price plummet 14 per cent on Monday (26 September) after losing its second chief executive in two years.

On Monday (26 September), Costa Group Holdings Limited, a major Australian grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, announced that CEO and managing director Sean Hallahan would step down with immediate effect.

Costa Asset Management (CAM), the family office of the Costa family, is the primary funder of Semper Capital, a Sydney-based specialist non-bank lender that distributes short-term loans via an extensive network of mortgage brokers.

Mortgage Business contacted Semper Capital director Andrew Way, who said: “Costa Asset Management Pty Ltd is involved in our business but we have no relationship, and nothing to do, with the listed business.”

Commenting on the loss of its CEO, Costa chairman Neil Chatfield highlighted the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand that the last two years, particularly in Victoria, have taken a large toll on the business and personal lives of individuals. Under Sean’s leadership Costa has performed extremely well during a challenging period with global Covid-19 disruptions and extreme weather conditions being successfully navigated and is in a strong financial position,” Mr Chatfield said.

Outgoing CEO Mr Hallahan said: “I am proud to leave Costa in a strong position financially and operationally. Reaching my decision has been a process and there are several things that have gone into my decision.

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“It has been an intense couple of years in agriculture made even more challenging with the overlay of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a privilege to lead Costa and to have been part of an outstanding team of people for five years. I wish Costa and its employees all the best for the future.”

Costa’s share price fell 14.2 per cent on Monday (26 September) to $2.18.

The company has appointed Harry Debney as interim CEO effective 26 September 2022.

Non-bank funding costs on the rise
 
It is unclear what impact, if any, the leadership changes at Costa Group and falling share price will have on Semper Capital. Costa Asset Management is a separate entity from the listed group, with investments in a range of companies including Unigrain and goFARM Australia. 
 
Semper Capital is one of many non-bank lenders in Australia that relies on wholesale funders. Unlike the big banks, which source much of their funding through deposits, non-bank lenders source all their funding through wholesale markets, such as securitisation or wholesale funding.
 
Murray Cowan, managing director of non-bank lender BMM, told Mortgage Business that non-banks are beginning to feel the pinch from rising funding costs. 
 
“The wholesale markets are expecting a higher rate of return at the moment, given slightly higher risks and talk of recession,” Mr Cowan said.

“Non-banks have become less competitive than they were nine months ago, purely because the cost of funds has been repriced to reflect this risk.”

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