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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed; Ryman and Stride gain

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed; Ryman and Stride gain on results, Port of Tauranga, A2 Milk drop

By Sophie Boot

Nov. 24 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares were mixed, with Ryman Healthcare and Stride Property making gains while Port of Tauranga and A2 Milk Co declined.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 28.34 points, or 0.4 percent, to 8,130.29. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 15 rose and 14 were unchanged. Turnover was $179 million.

Ryman led the index higher for a second day, gaining 3.7 percent to $9.80. The country's biggest retirement village operator and developer said yesterday it had boosted first-half profit 8.4 percent to $202.6 million, and lifted its interim dividend, after reaping bigger margins on resales of existing units, even as the broader property market slowed. "

Stride gained 3 percent to $1.74, continuing yesterday's gains which came after it posted a 44 percent gain in first-half profit to $33.3 million as growth in management fees and lower costs made up for a decline in rental income.

"They both reported yesterday - it has taken a while for some investors to absorb that, and put aside all the new government-related risks that have surrounded that sector, and look at the underlying company and think that it was a good result," said Greg Easton, an adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "Normally you would expect an immediate reaction but people may be looking at things a bit more closely."

Kathmandu Holdings rose 2.9 percent to $2.49. The outdoor equipment retailer, which held its annual meeting today, said this week that first-quarter earnings were up despite sales dipping as it widened margins by selling less discounted stock.

Auckland International Airport advanced 1.8 percent to $6.31. In its monthly traffic update today, the company said international passengers (excluding transits) were up by 6.8 percent in October 2017 compared to October 2016, and Chinese visitor arrivals were up 10.7 percent.

"They give these every month, and it was largely as expected," Easton said. "We're pretty used to seeing Chinese visitor arrivals up 10.7 percent but the fact that keeps happening is a story that Auckland Airport really wants to tell. The growth is relatively unlimited from that market, so it's reinforcement of the long-term story that is unfolding. It's good to see those shares move upwards because they have been in the doldrums."

Port of Tauranga was the worst performer, down 1.8 percent to $4.87. Today, Marsden Point-based Northport, which is co-owned by Marsden Maritime Holdings and Port of Tauranga, published its vision for growth which could see the port grow to more than twice its current size if container operations are moved from Ports of Auckland.

A2 Milk dropped 1.2 percent to $8.33 and Fletcher Building declined 1 percent to $6.86.

Outside the benchmark index, Warehouse Group gained 0.5 percent to $2.05. Chair Joan Withers and chief executive Nick Grayston said in notes for the annual general meeting in Auckland today that the retailer is accelerating its transformation plan as only the fittest and most savvy retailers will survive the digital era.

Warehouse's share price has fallen around 30 percent since the annual meeting a year ago, a "serious concern," Withers said. The stock last traded at $2.04 versus around $3 at the prior AGM. "Globally, retailers are besieged and only those who are the fittest and who have made the changes needed to compete for today's customers are successful," she said.

"They're talking about how aggressively they need to push the online channel because they want a share of it," Easton said. "They're doing pretty well, actually - I guess they want to say sure, Amazon's coming, but we're still there and you can get to us the same way. A great example of that has been Walmart, they've been one of the better-performing stocks on the US exchanges this year, despite the Amazon threat, because they've adapted to the times."


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