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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise, led by Ebos, Spark

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares rise, led by Ebos, Spark; Trade Me, SkyCity drop

By Sophie Boot

Aug. 8 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, led by Ebos Group and Spark New Zealand, while Trade Me Group fell near a six-month low amidst Amazon fears.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 11.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,782.72. Within the index, 20 stocks rose, 19 fell and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $124 million.

The first company results for the mid-year reporting season are due tomorrow, with SkyCity Entertainment Group and Property For Industry set to deliver their numbers, while the majority of results will be publicised over the following two weeks.

SkyCity dropped 1.2 percent to $4.10 ahead of its full year earnings tomorrow. The stock is up 5.6 percent for the year, having recovered from a sell off in February which saw it sink as low as $3.59 before its first half results showed an 18 percent lift in profit.

"It's maybe just a little bit of positioning ahead of the result, I don't think anyone's expecting anything groundbreaking," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. "They probably will grow the bottom line a little bit but it's still likely to look quite mixed - the market on the face of it is obviously seeing a few challenges."

Property for Industry was unchanged at $1.655. Ebos Group led the index, rising 1.7 percent to $17.95, while Spark New Zealand gained 1.4 percent to $3.895 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp advanced 1.3 percent to $11.45.

"It's still that calm before the storm in terms of the lead up to reporting season," Lister said.

Trade Me was the worst performer, down 6.1 percent to $4.90. The stock has sunk about 12 percent since July 25, a day after reports emerged Amazon had settled on Melbourne as its base for an Australian launch later this year. Deutsche Bank has downgraded it to a 'sell' rating with a price target of $4.30 and Macquarie Research lowered its recommendation to 'underperform' with a $5 price target.

"It's getting sold off reasonably solidly, basically there have been a couple of brokers reports come out over the last week raising a few concerns and risks about Amazon coming to Australia and then potentially to New Zealand," Lister said. "There are obviously a lot of unknowns there, but it just creates a bit of uncertainty. It might mean Trade Me has to work a little bit harder to keep new threats at bay."

Outside the benchmark index, PGG Wrightson gained 1.7 percent to 61 cents. The rural services company today posted a 5.7 percent gain in full-year profit, meeting its guidance, as it benefitted from lower interest costs, offsetting stalled growth in revenue. Profit rose to $46.3 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from $43.8 million a year earlier, it said in a statement. Sales fell to $1.13 billion from $1.18 billion.

"It's not a company that is front of mind for a lot of investors, but its earnings were up a little on the previous year - it was pretty close to expectations," Lister said.


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