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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed, A2 at record

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed, A2 at record while Fletcher, Tower recover, Sky City drops

By Sophie Boot

July 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares were mixed, with A2 Milk Co at a fresh record and Fletcher Building continuing to recover, while Sky City Entertainment Group fell.

The S&P/NZX50 Index rose 1.13 points, or 0.015 percent, to 7,711.72. Within the index, 23 stocks fell, 19 rose and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $125.6 million.

A2 Milk Co led the index for the second day running, up 7.6 percent to $4.52, a new record. The stock has gained 16 percent this week, with a positive research note encouraging investors ahead of the company's earnings announcement next month, Grant Davies, investment advisor at Hamilton Hindin Greene said.

Oceania Health rose 1 percent to 97 cents. The company, which listed in May, said full-year net profit and pro-forma underlying earnings exceeded its forecasts on the back of a lift in the valuation of its care and retirement village assets, at $44.9 million compared to the $25.3 million forecast, and it is on track to meet its forecast for the 2018 financial year.

"They are pretty successful results for Oceania, early investors are going to be pleased," Davies said. "It's yet another success story in the aged care sector."

Fletcher Building gained 0.8 percent to $7.84. The stock sustained losses beginning last week, falling as low as $7.47 on Monday, when Fletcher downgraded its 2017 earnings for the second time this year, with chief executive Mark Adamson leaving immediately. It has recovered nearly 5 percent this week.

"It's continuing to have a bit of a resurgence, what happened does point to some problems but those were reasonably well known," Davies said. "The market has probably responded a bit to the certainty, and a new CEO could shake things up a bit."

Fonterra Shareholders Fund advanced 0.5 percent to $6.03. Fonterra Cooperative Group lifted its forecast farmgate payout for the 2018 season to $6.75 per kilogram of milk solids from an earlier projection of $6.50/kgMS and up from $6.15/kgMS in the 2016/17 season. It projected earnings per share in line with the previous season, saying global supply and demand were "rebalancing".

Ebos Group was the worst performer, down 2.2 percent to $17.90, while Stride Property fell 1.8 percent to $1.66.

Sky City dropped 1.4 percent to $3.45. The casino owner announced yesterday it will write off all the goodwill in its Darwin casino complex with an A$95 million impairment, saying increased competition for gaming machines in the Northern Territory hurt revenue and earnings. The non-cash impairment will be recognised in its results for the year ended June 30 and will reduce the book value of the Darwin property to A$195 million.

Outside the benchmark index, Tower gained 2.8 percent to 93 cents. Shares in the general insurer took a pounding yesterday, falling as low as 86 cents from $1.26 the day before in response to the Commerce Commission rejecting a merger application at $1.40 a share from rival insurer Vero.

Owned by Brisbane-based Suncorp, Vero sought permission to acquire Tower's operations after winning a bidding war with Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings in a deal that valued Tower at $236 million. The Vero bid trumped FFH's offer at $1.17 a share.

"The average trading price today is still lower than yesterday, so I don't think it's a huge recovery or a sign the market is going to keep pushing it up," Davies said.


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