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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise on Meridian's smelter deadline

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise on Meridian's smelter deadline, Kathmandu earnings

By Sophie Boot

March 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares extended their rally after Meridian Energy, which has been in demand from index-weighted funds, said its smelter contract may stay in place for longer. Kathmandu Holdings rose after posting its first-half results.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index grew 22.3 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,664.26. Within the index, 28 stocks rose, 12 fell and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $186.3 million.

Meridian Energy led the index, advancing 2.8 percent to $2.555.

Some 35 million shares in the company were sold on Friday, compared to 5.9 million today, a more usual day, after the stock was added to the FTSE Developed Asia Pacific Index. Meridian's gain today is partly a hangover from that index rebalancing, Harbour Asset Management's Craig Stent said.

The gentailer also announced today that it and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters have pushed out the deadline for the Tiwai Point smelter operator to give a year's notice to reduce its power supply to 400 megawatts until July.

The companies today agreed to push out the period to July 29 from April 30, giving NZAS more time to assess its capital needs and the Electricity Authority's transmission pricing, Meridian said in a statement.

"Effectively the aluminium smelter's waiting for what happens with the transmission pricing methodology and that's being delayed by the Electricity Authority," Stent said. "Meridian's giving them a longer window to wait for that news to come through, which is obviously going to be beneficial if it goes in their favour as has been predicted."

Other stocks which benefited from index rebalancing were SkyCity Entertainment Group, which gained 0.6 percent to $5.01, and Sky Network Television, which dropped 0.2 percent to $4.97, Stent said. Market turnover for Friday was $511 million, far higher than usual.

Fletcher Building grew 1.9 percent to $7.90, Heartland Bank rose 1.7 percent to $1.22, and Genesis Energy advanced 1.7 percent to $2.15.

A2 Milk Co climbed 1.6 percent to $1.97, a one-month high.

Kathmandu Holdings gained 1.2 percent to $1.68. It posted a first-half profit of $9.4 million, meeting guidance, and affirmed full-year forecast profit of $30.2 million.

"The result was pretty good," Stent said. "They kept guidance for the full year, and numbers for the first half beat most people's expectations. However, their winter and Easter sales will be pretty key for them."

New Zealand Refining Co was the biggest loser, dropping 2.3 percent to $3.03, having fallen 17.3 percent so far this year.

Steel & Tube Holdings shed 2.2 percent to $2.25, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare dropped 2.1 percent to $9.28, and Xero lost 1.7 percent to $15.24.

Outside the main index, Pushpay Holdings grew 2.3 percent to $2.20. NZX today asked the company to explain a 39 percent rally in its shares over a week. Pushpay said it had no material information to declare to the market.


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