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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares slump in global sell-off

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares slump to four-month low in global sell-off, led by Kathmandu

By Suze Metherell

Aug. 8 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand stocks joined a global sell-off as rising geopolitical tensions and next week's earnings season sap investors' appetite for risk. Kathmandu Holdings led the benchmark index lower, while Spark, formerly Telecom Corp, fell under its new brand.

The NZX 50 Index fell 42.307 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5055.202, the lowest since April 8. Within the index, 30 stocks fell, 13 rose and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $101.9 million.

Stocks across Asia plunged as US President Barack Obama authorised airstrikes in Iraq against militant group the Islamic State, which has been targeting ethno-religious group, Yezidis people and Christians. Meanwhile tensions between Russia and the West heightened as President Vladmir Putin banned food from the US, Australia and the European Union in retaliation to West-imposed sanctions over hostilities with Ukraine.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped 2.8 percent in afternoon trading, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.5 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 percent.

"A bit of wariness from investors on the geopolitical goings on, obviously Ukraine and the latest move to Iraq by the US, so there's a little bit nervousness," said Shane Solly, director at Harbour Asset Management. "Certainly people are more cautious than normal" especially as they wait for reporting season to begin next week.

Stocks with trans-Tasman exposure were most affected by the offshore sentiment, Solly said.

Kathmandu, the outdoor goods retailer gets two thirds of its revenue from Australia, led the benchmark index lower down 4.1 percent to $3.24. Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company with big trans-Tasman interests, dropped 2.1 percent o $8.76. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the dual-listed bank, fell 1.4 percent to $35.40, and Westpac Banking Corp slipped 0.4 percent to $36.74.

Spark, New Zealand's largest telecommunications provider previously known as Telecom, fell 1.7 percent to $2.82. The telecommunications company is cutting costs and rebranding in its shift away from declining fixed-line calling to focus on data, mobility, internet television and cloud services.

"When you're a marketing or brand driven business like Spark is and Telecom was, it is all part of the positioning of your overall product, so it is very much driven by consumer and business requirements," Solly said. "This is probably indicative that there is a lot of change going on in the business."

Diligent Board Member Services rose 2.9 percent to $4.32. The governance app maker forced to restate its accounts said it lifted first-half profit 30 percent US$4.28 million, or 4 cents per share, in the six months ended June 30. That was below First NZ Capital's forecast for profit of US$5 million. It has raised its expectations for annual revenue growth, as it embarks on winning over new industries.

Pacific Edge rose 1.5 percent to 69 cents. The non-invasive bladder cancer test maker will ask shareholders to approve a $26,000 boost in its fee pool used to pay directors to $198,000 at its annual meeting on Aug. 21, and plans to to refresh its board and replace outgoing director Colin Dawson.

Summerset Group fell 0.7 percent to $2.95 after New Zealand's third-largest listed retirement village operator said it will develop a $130 million village in the Ellerslie suburb of Auckland to accommodate 400 people after being granted resource consent. Rival retirement villages Metlifecare rose 0.5 percent to $4.30 and Ryman Healthcare declined 0.6 percent to $8.07.

Outside the benchmark index, Acurity Health Group was unchanged at $6.50, after its board backed a plan to redevelop its flagship Wakefield hospital in Wellington, an upgrade touted by potential buyers as the biggest hurdle facing the private hospital operator. While no definite figures are available, a recent review suggests the upgrade would cost between $45 million and $50 million, with a further $10 million needed to replace the current Wakefield Medical Consultant Centre.


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