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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall, led by MRP, Meridian

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall, led by MRP, Meridian, Contact amid political uncertainty

By Suze Metherell

Sept. 1 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell, led by MightyRiverPower as ongoing political uncertainty ahead of the country's general election this month weighed on investors. A2 Milk Co and Pacific Edge paced the decline.

The NZX 50 Index fell 7.902 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5215.401. Within the index, 24 shares fell, 12 rose and 14 were unchanged. Turnover was a thin $58.2 million.

Political polls largely show the incumbent National-led government returning for a third term led by Prime Minister John Key, though recent polls have shown a drop in voter support for the party. Over the weekend the ongoing political scandal surrounding alleged 'dirty tricks' saw the resignation of senior cabinet minister, Judith Collins. 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

MRP led the benchmark index lower, dropping 4.6 percent, or 11 cents, to $2.30. The stock shed rights to its 8.3 cents per share final dividend, payable at the end of the month. Contact Energy fell 2.7 percent, or 15 cents, to $5.40, as it shed rights to its 15 cents per share final dividend, which pays investors on Sept. 15.

Meridian Energy declined 3.2 percent to $1.225. Vector, the Auckland-based lines company, fell 1.1 percent to $2.65. Genesis Energy slipped 0.8 percent to $1.78.

"Now that earning season is out of the way, attention is just going to focus on where we go to with the election, and it's getting messier by the day," said Robert Garden, investment advisor at Craigs Investment Partners."The uncertainty on the political scene has caused a bit of apprehension around the energy stocks given the potential changes the Labour and the Greens may or may not make if they do get into power."

Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, slipped 0.9 percent to $9.12.

A2 Milk, which markets milk with a protein variant said to have health benefits, dropped 3.1 percent to 62 cents. Pacific Edge, the Dunedin-based biotech company, declined 2.3 percent to $5.00. Xero, the cloud-based accounting software firm, fell 1.6 percent to $24.80.

Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, was the best performer on the day, advancing 2.9 percent to $3.02. Kathmandu Holdings, the outdoor goods retailer, rose 2.4 percent to $3.37.

Outside the benchmark index, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch was unchanged at $4.11. After the close of trading the Christchurch port's board recommeneded shareholders accept the takeover offer from its majority owner, Christchurch City Holdings, the city's infrastructure investment arm which already owns 79.6 percent and had agreed to buy Port Otago's 15.5 percent holding which would comfortably take it above the 90 percent threshold to compulsorily acquire the rest of the shares. It will offer $3.95 a share for remaining stock in the port company, valuing the business at about $404 million. As part of the agreement, Lyttlelton Port would pay a special dividend of 20 cents to existing shareholders, using any imputation credits to pay the tax.

Gentrack Group rose 4 percent to $2.34, its highest since it cut its prospectus full-year profit forecast by as much as 32 percent only six- weeks after it debuted on the NZX. The airport and utility software developer said today it has resolved the delayed contract upgrade with a customer which, in part, caused the profit warning.

Allied Farmers jumped 22 percent to 7.9 cents, the highest its been since November 2011, after the company, which is rebuilding from a disastrous takeover of the Hanover and United Finance loan books, returned to annual profit of $1.03 million, from a loss of $1.12 million a year earlier, as its core livestock unit lifted income with gains in Taranaki and Waikato.

Wellington Drive dropped 18 percent to a record low of 9 cents. On Friday, after close of trading, the unprofitable manufacturer of energy efficient motors said it had widened its first half loss to $1.99 million and flagged full year earnings wouldn't improve as sales slump in Latin America, its largest market.


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