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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed; Sky TV, Fletcher gain

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed; Sky TV, Fletcher gain while Spark, Ebos go ex-dividend

By Sophie Boot

March 15 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares were mixed, with Fletcher Building and Sky Network Televisionreboudning after recent selling and companies including Spark New Zealand and Ebos Group shedding their rights to dividends.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 34.7 points, or 0.4 percent, to 8,467.33. Within the index, 23 stocks fell, 21 rose and six were unchanged. Turnover was $149.8 million.

"Most of Asia's in the red and we certainly didn't get any strong offshore leads, but we have had a reasonable day today," said Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "Markets are on a bit of an edge at the moment, but today we've been driven up by Fletcher and Sky TV on good volume."

Fletcher Building and Sky Network Television, which gained today, are being seen as value plays by some investors due to recent falls, McIntyre said. Sky, which rose 1.9 percent to $2.15, has dropped 40 percent in the past year, while Fletcher gained 1.8 percent to $6.41 today, having fallen 30 percent in the past year.

"Fletcher Building hit a low of $6.28 early this week and you're looking at a market that's relatively well-priced and looking for value plays," McIntyre said. "If management is able to execute the plans they've put in place there could be some intrinsic value higher than what the current share price is, and there's pretty healthy volume running through that stock today."

Sky TV "is trading ex-dividend, but it's another one where investors have said 'enough's enough' and there must be some value in that business," McIntyre said. "It's still got strong free cash flow, management is trying to stop customer churn."

The worst performing stocks today were led by those giving up dividend rights. Spark New Zealand, which dropped 12.5 cents or 3.5 percent to $3.41, gave up an 11 cent interim dividend and 1.5 cent special dividend. Freightways dropped 8 cents or 1.1 percent to $7.53, after shedding a 14.5 cent dividend.

NZX dropped 2.7 percent to $1.07, while Metro Performance Glass fell 2.5 percent to 77 cents.

Ebos Group declined 25 cents or 1.4 percent to $18.19, having shed a 33 cent dividend. It has hired Telstra executive Shaun Hughes as chief financial officer after the health-care and pet-care products group promoted John Cullity to chief executive.

Outside the benchmark index, PGG Wrightson was unchanged at 62 cents, though it gave up rights to a 1.75 cent dividend. The firm said it is "open to options" after it hired investment bankers for a strategic review of the business and Australian media reported that it is preparing non-disclosure agreements with interested parties.

The rural services firm is indirectly controlled by China's Agria Corp, which owns a 50.2 percent stake via Agria (Singapore). The Australian Financial review named ASX-listed Ruralco Holdings and Elders, Agrium-owned agribusiness Landmark, and Champ Private Equity as potential suitors, while Hong Kong-listed CK Life Sciences is said to be interested in Wrightson's seeds business.

"Nothing has come out formally from the company itself, and it's gone ex-dividend but it hasn't lost any share value and there has been a lot of volume through it today," McIntyre said.

(BusinessDesk)

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