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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Spark, Sky TV continue losses while Auckland Airport gains on earnings

By Sophie Boot

Feb. 17 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell, led lower by Sky Network Television and Spark New Zealand, while Auckland International Airport gained after its first-half profit rose 19 percent.

The S&P/NZX50 Index dropped 6.46 points, or 0.09 percent, to 7,093.52. Within the index, 25 stocks fell, 15 rose and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $139.9 million.

"After a pretty heavy down day yesterday, we're still giving back a bit of ground today," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "I'd have to say reporting season so far hasn't done much for the market, though it's still early days. There seems to be a weight in selling in some of these stocks. Volumes are relatively light, there's still a bit of nervousness around and I'd say we're going to have to start seeing some pretty reasonable results to see the share market start to trade significantly higher than where it trades at the moment."

Spark led the index lower for a second day in a row, down 2.3 percent to $3.48. It fell yesterday after lifting first-half earnings 3.5 percent to $178 million and affirming its annual earnings outlook.

"It's lost further ground today, the result wasn't that bad but market expectations are getting a bit ahead of performance," Williamson said.

Sky TV dropped 2 percent to $4.41. The shares declined yesterday after Sky said it won't delay a merger with Vodafone New Zealand to give other telecommunications companies, including Spark, time to appeal it in court if the transaction is approved by the Commerce Commission. Williamson said the uncertainty about how competitors may respond to the merger was driving the share price lower.

Skycity Entertainment Group was the best performer, up 1.8 percent to $4.04. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.5 percent to $32.87 and Summerset Group advanced 1.2 percent to $4.90

Auckland Airport rose 0.6 percent to $6.79. The airport posted a 19 percent gain in first-half profit to $123.5 million, a period when New Zealand's busiest gateway added airlines with increased capacity and new services and routes, and the country enjoyed record tourist numbers.

"It's rebounded a bit today, another good result but they are priced at a premium to the market so they have to keep producing pretty reasonable results to even maintain their share price," Williamson said. "They touched the $7 mark a few days ago, and then fell a couple of days before the result. They are still trading pretty close to all-time highs, they have been rebounding nicely in the last quarter."

Outside the benchmark index, Steel & Tube Holdings dropped 2.3 percent to $2.56. The NZX-listed steel products distributor reported a 33 percent drop in first-half profit to $10.6 million, hurt by a decline in non-residential construction, but expects things to pick up in the second half.

"The results seemed reasonable, but the share prices rallied ahead of the result so it's buy the rumour sell the fact again," Williamson said.

IkeGPS rose 8.6 percent to 38 cents. The laser measurement toolmaker maintained its breakeven forecast for 2017 but won't achieve projected sales growth after a weak first half, and expects lumpiness in its revenue to 2018 and beyond.

Cavalier Corp dropped 3.2 percent to 61 cents. The carpet maker and wool scourer posted a sharply lower first-half profit and continues to forecast no earnings growth for the full year, although it expects improvement further down the track. The Auckland-based company said its net profit for the six months to Dec. 31 was $31,000 versus $3.5 million in the same period a year earlier.

Abano Healthcare gained 1.2 percent to $8.80. The company has recommended investors continue to reject a partial takeover bid for the medical investor after Healthcare Partners raised its offer price yesterday. Abano also refused to allow access to its books to pave the way for a potential full takeover offer.

AFT Pharmaceuticals dropped 1.5 percent to $2.66. The Auckland-based drug maker, which manufactures the Maxigesic painkiller, expects annual sales to meet analysts' forecasts of about $70 million and has adjusted its loan covenant with shareholder Capital Royalty Group.

Veritas was unchanged at 24 cents. It has granted a further extension for Gosh Holding to complete the purchase of the business and assets of its Nosh supermarkets to Feb. 24.


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