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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise in light volume trade

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise in light volume trade, led by Spark, Z; Sky TV falls

By Rebecca Howard

June 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, led by Z Energy and Spark New Zealand in relatively light trading, while Sky Network Television fell after the pay-TV operator and Vodafone New Zealand terminated their merger agreement, although it did pare some of its losses over the session as more detail came to light.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 42 points or 0.6 percent to 7,595.50. Within the index, 30 stocks rose, 12 fell and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $110 million.

"It's firm, but on very light volume. The start of the week looked like it was going to be relatively quiet, but there has been a little bit of interest" with some corporate activity, said David Price, director of institutional equities at Forsyth Barr.

Sky and Vodafone New Zealand withdrew their appeal against the Commerce Commission's rejection of their $3.44 billion media merger, which Price said sparked some activity on the market. Sky initially fell 5 percent but after chief executive John Fellet came out and said the decision to drop the appeal was a mutual one with the costs likely to outweigh the benefits, it pared some of its losses and ended down 2.1 percent at $3.32, the biggest drag on the index.

Similarly, news that Suncorp Group's Vero Insurance New Zealand unit had sweetened a takeover offer for Tower also garnered interest, Price said. Vero is offering $1.40 a share to take over Tower, valuing it at $236.1 million, up from an earlier price of $1.30 a share, or $219.3 million. Tower shares are in a trading halt as the general insurer's board goes through the detail of the increased bid. Tower last traded at $1.155.

Z Energy led the market higher, adding 2.4 percent to $7.65 while Spark - which opposed the Sky and Vodafone tie up - added 2.3 percent to $3.84.

Price noted volumes remain tepid. While the market is hitting a fresh high on a regular basis, many people are sticking to the sidelines. "There hasn't been the earnings support to drive it forward so people are finding it hard to find value," he said.

Other gainers included Metro Performance Glass, which added 2.2 percent to $1.38, and Freightways which was up 1.7 percent to $7.64.

New Zealand King Salmon Investments added 4.7 percent to $1.57 after it said it expects annual earnings to beat its offer document forecast on strong demand for its products and affirmed its projected profit for the following year.

In the other direction, Genesis Energy slid 2 percent to $2.43 while Meridian Energy fell 0.8 percent to $2.98 and SkyCity Entertainment Group fell 0.7 percent to $4.29.

Stride Property Group shed 0.6 percent to $1.73. The property investor, which last month beat annual profit forecasts, said it had promoted Philip Littlewood to chief executive after the former GM investment management spent six months in a joint acting role with chief financial officer Jennifer Whooley.

(BusinessDesk)

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