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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise on political polls

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise on political polls; Heartland gains on property sales

By Suze Metherell

June 17 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, paced by Heartland New Zealand which advanced to a four-month high on news its asset selling programme was better than forecast. Meridian Energy, Contact Energy and MightyRiverPower climbed as political polls showed the incumbent National-led government returning in September's general election.

The NZX 50 Index rose 14.7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5193.5. Within the index 23 stocks rose, 19 fell and eight were unchanged. So far this month Telecom has been the top traded stock, with $33 million worth of its shares changing hands off-market, and $11.3 million on-market. A2 Milk Co has had $11.5 million trade off-market and $17.3 million on-market, and Air New Zealand has had $19.4 million off-market, $8.9 million on-market. Turnover for the day was $132 million.

Heartland, which gained a banking licence in 2012, climbed 2.2 percent to 92 cents, paring an intraday record of 93 cents. The bank has sold 51 percent of its non-core assets, from $87.1 million to $43 million over the past five months. It had previously forecast reducing non-core property to $57.9 million by June 30.

"Heartland Bank came out with an interesting announcement today suggesting they're ahead of earlier projections for selling of their non-core assets," said Matthew Goodson, who helps manage $650 million of equities and property holdings on behalf of Salt Funds Management. Non-core property assets "had been quite a headwind for the business for a while now."

Power companies rose after a Herald Digi-Poll showed a National-led government returning to govern alone ahead after this year's election. The two opposition parties, Greens and Labour, plan to re-regulate the energy market in a bid to push down retail prices, a policy which has dampened investors’ interest in the government’s partial privatisation of state-owned energy companies MRP, Meridian and Genesis Energy.

Meridian, an energy generator and retailer, gained 1.7 percent to $1.205. Contact Energy advanced 0.4 percent to $5.40. MRP advanced 0.2 percent to $2.255. Trustpower was unchanged at $7.05, while off the benchmark index Genesis was unchanged at $1.79. Auckland lines company Vector rose 0.4 percent to $2.56.

"To some degree these tend to trade off political polls given the widely varying policies of the parties," Goodson said.

Diligent Board Member Services led the NZX 50 higher, jumping 5 percent to a near month-high of $4.41. The governance app maker is due to report its first quarter sales on Friday. The company had to restate its financial statements for 2010, 2011 and 2012 after acknowledging it recognised revenue too early under US GAAP accounting rules. The company has set up new internal controls to avoid a repeat.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, rose 0.3 percent to $8.96. Telecom climbed 1.1 percent to $2.75. Warehouse Group, the nation's largest listed retailer, was the worst performer on the day down 3 percent to $3.24.

Air New Zealand fell 0.4 percent to $2.25. The national carrier said it has boosted its Virgin Australia cornerstone stake to the maximum 25.99 percent allowed under regulation from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board from 24.46 percent.

Trade Me Group rose 0.3 percent to $3.60. Today chief operating officer Mike O’Donnell, better known as MOD, announced his resignation from the online auction site.

Outside the benchmark index, New Zealand Refining, the Marsden Point oil refinery controlled by its major customers, climbed 0.6 percent to $1.70. New Zealand's only oil refiner says upgrades to its hydrocracker have boosted efficiency even as it misses its original forecast margin because of the "current weak margin environment".

(BusinessDesk)

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