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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall led by Auckland Airport

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall led by Auckland International Airport, energy companies

By Suze Metherell

Aug. 29 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares extended yesterday's decline, led by Auckland International Airport, as investors locked in the month's gains ahead of September's general election, while energy companies fell amid political uncertainty.

The NZX 50 Index fell 14.211 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5223.303. Within the index, 21 stock fell, 18 rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $151.3 million.

The benchmark index has drifted off a record close on Wednesday as investors crystallise profits from the 2.7 percent gain on the market this month after an earnings season that was largely in line with expectations. Investors are now looking past earning season to the general election next month. A NZ Herald-DigiPoll survey yesterday showed the incumbent National Party is likely to return for a third term in government, though recent polls have shown declining support for the administration.

"It's been a much stronger month than people expected," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research in Craigs Investment Partners. "It has been a pretty safe and steady reporting season. The focus for the last three or four weeks has been the multitude of results that have come out thick and fast. Now that is all behind us the market will very quickly look to the election, that's the next key thing for New Zealand."

Auckland International Airport led the benchmark index lower, down 2.9 percent to $3.67. Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, extended its decline from Wednesday's six-year high falling 0.3 percent to $2.935. Vital Healthcare Property fell 2 percent to $1.44.

"I think the election will keep things a little bit range bound, as people don't have any certainty of who is going to be making the rules," Lister said.

Energy stocks are the most prone to be sold ahead of any electoral uncertainty, as the opposition Green and Labour parties have promised to introduce a state-owned single electricity buyer in a bid to push down retail prices. New Zealand's proportional voting system only added further uncertainty, Lister said.

Contact Energy dropped 1.6 percent to $5.55. Genesis Energy fell 0.8 percent to $1.795. TrustPower declined 0.6 percent to $6.87. Meridian Energy was down 0.4 percent to $1.265. MightyRiverPower slipped 0.2 percent to $2.41.

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, fell 1 percent to $9.20.

Guinness Peat Group, which owns UK threadmaker Coats, was the best performer on the day, up 3.3 percent to 63 cents.

Delegat Group advanced 0.5 percent to $4.27 after New Zealand's largest listed wine company said annual earnings rose 19 percent to $31.4 million, excluding accounting adjustments, ahead of the company's forecast of $29 million, while net profit rose 3 percent to $42.6 million. Delegat is expanding its vineyards and targeting increased exports as it seeks to build a leading global "super premium" wine company with its Oyster Bay and Barossa Valley Estate wine brands.

"Despite the high New Zealand dollar, not all exporters are doing it tough. You're getting a few in certain sectors who are finding the currency very troublesome then you look at someone like Delegats who is selling into the UK, the US, Australia and profits are growing by 19 percent," Lister said.

Mercer Group dropped 10 percent to 17.5 cents after the stainless steel manufacturer turned to an annual loss of $438,000 as it hired new staff to fuel future profit growth while trading conditions in Australia remained tough.

Bathurst Resources fell 1.9 percent to 5.2 cents after the coal miner reported an operating pre-tax loss of $3.6 million in the 12 months ended June 30, on revenue of $55.7 million and wrote down its Buller coal project by $449.9 million as it hunkers down and waits for international coking coal market conditions to improve.

Lyttelton Port Co slipped 0.7 percent to $4.11 after Christchurch's ocean trade hub posted a jump in annual profit to $343.2 million and paid off debt after settling insurance claims resulting from the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

Scales Corp advanced 1.3 percent to $1.55 after the fruit and vegetables logistics company said first-half profit fell 22 percent to $20.6 million from a year earlier, reflecting lower apple prices and the one-off costs of its NZX listing. The recently listed company affirmed it was on track to meet its prospectus forecast.

Pyne Gould Corp dropped 4.4 percent to 43 cents after the Guernsey-based asset management firm controlled by George Kerr more than halved its annual profit to $20.1 million after completing its asset sale programme and is eyeing a return to paying dividends.

Marsden Maritime Holdings rose 2.9 percent to $2.83 after the company, formerly called Northland Port Co, lifted annual profit 24 percent to $8.33 million as a stronger result from its half-stake in Whangarei's Northport was supported by asset sales in the year.

Promisia Intergrative advanced 7.1 percent to 4.5 cents after the therapeutic health supplements company widened its first-half loss to $388,000 as it looks to expand its Arthrem brand into the United States.

Pumpkin Patch was unchanged at 42 cents after the childrenswear retailer, which slashed its earnings forecast earlier this year, will take a $12 million charge to write down the value of stores and IT software, while saying underlying profit was in line with guidance.


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