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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as Sky TV sinks to record low

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as Sky TV sinks to record low; Air NZ, F&P Healthcare gain

By Jonathan Underhill

March 5 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell as Sky Network Television sank to a record low having halved its interim dividend and cut prices last month in the face of increased competition. Air New Zealand and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare gained.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 8.59 points, or 0.1 percent, to 8,279.83. Within the index, 21 stocks fell, 19 rose and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $93 million.

Sky TV fell 4.6 percent to $2.30, the lowest close since it merged with Independent Newspapers in 2005. Last month the pay-TV operator cut its interim dividend to 7.5 cents per share, half the 15 cents it paid a year earlier. The Auckland-based company, which has been contending with the rise of online alternatives such as Netflix and Spark New Zealand's Lightbox, lost 37,359 customers in the six months ended Dec. 31, including the 10,608 it shed with the closure of the Fatso DVD rental unit, leaving it with 778,776 subscribers at the end of the year.

"Sky still has some very good rights to sports, which is probably its saving grace," said Grant Williamson, a director at brokerage Hamilton Hindin Greene. "But the market has fallen out of love with Sky TV. The dividend cut was something that the market was hoping would not happen. The company is trying to protect its market share and wants to retain cash."

Fishing company Sanford fell 2.6 percent to $7.42. Of the cluster of companies benefiting from offshore demand for honey and milk, Comvita fell 1.9 percent to $7.60, Synlait Milk fell 1.7 percent to $7.40 and A2 Milk dropped 1.4 percent to $12.82.

Williamson said on a subdued trading day there didn't appear to be much reaction to US President Donald Trump's announcement of tariff hikes on imports of steel and aluminium, which some market analysts have said risks sparking a trade war - a situation that could impact New Zealand companies.

Air NZ rose 1.9 percent to $3.29 while F&P Healthcare climbed 1.7 percent to $13.55. The kiwi dollar fell as low as 72.04 US cents overnight, the lowest since the middle of last week and down from as high as 74.36 cents on Feb. 16. A weaker dollar makes New Zealand a relatively less expensive destination for tourists and lifts the value of overseas sales when they are converted back to kiwi dollars.

"The dollar has just come off a bit - I'm not aware of too much else" driving those stocks, Williamson said.

Summerset Group rose 1.6 percent to $6.37, Ebos Group rose 1.5 percent to $18.06 and SkyCity Entertainment Group gained 1.3 percent to $3.87.

AFT Pharmaceuticals rose 6.2 percent to $2.39 after the drugmaker said its codeine-free painkiller Maxigesic "is now the largest selling Paracetamol-Ibuprofen combination painkiller in Australian pharmacies."

Investore Property rose 0.7 percent to $1.39 after the company said it planned to raise up to $100 million through a six-year bond issue, which it will use to repay bank debt, diversifying the property investor's funding sources and extending the length of maturities.

NZX was unchanged at $1.07 after its monthly metrics showed total equity trades on the NZX in February rose 66 percent to 227,153. Total value traded increased 12 percent to $3.2 billion.


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