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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join global sell-off

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares join global sell-off; Spark, Air NZ, Sky TV, A2 Milk fall

By Jonathan Underhill

March 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index fell about 1 percent for the second straight session, joining a global selloff that started on Wall Street and extended into Asia amid fears of a trade war. Spark NZ, Air New Zealand, Sky Network Television and A2 Milk all fell.

The NZX 50 fell 82.95 points, or 0.97 percent, to 8,432.41. Within the index, 33 stocks fell, 11 rose and six were unchanged. Turnover was $95 million.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.8 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 2.1 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 2.4 percent and today in Asia, benchmark indexes from Australia to Japan were weaker as China announced retaliatory tariffs in the face of increased US levies.

The NZX 50 was led lower by Spark, which fell 3.1 percent to $3.43. Air New Zealand fell 2.7 percent to $3.30 and A2 Milk fell 2.4 percent to $13.40. Synlait Milk, a manufacturing partner of A2, fell 2.2 percent to $8.51.

"There's nothing really New Zealand specific. We're following on from the US market," said David Price, a broker at Forsyth Barr. Some of the best-performing stocks on the NZX 50, including A2 "have run pretty hard. It isn't panic selling. People have made some fairly serious money out of the likes of A2."

Sky TV fell 2.2 percent to $2.27 after the pay-TV company said chief executive John Fellet plans to retire within the next year, after 17 years at the helm. Last month, Auckland-based Sky said it had lost 37,359 customers in the six months ended Dec. 31, including the 10,608 it shed with the closure of its Fatso DVD rental unit, leaving it with 778,776 subscribers at the end of 2017.

Fellett "has done a fantastic job," Price said. "I presume it was going to be the handover when Vodafone happened. That fell over and he's had to take the helm back," he said, referring to the proposed merger between Vodafone and Sky TV, which was vetoed by the Commerce Commission.

Among other stocks, Vital Healthcare Property Trust fell 2 percent to $2.07 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare dropped 1.7 percent to $13.08.

Gentrack Group was the biggest gainer, rising 3 percent to $6.85 after the company said it had inked a contract with Eon, providing Germany’s largest renewable energy producer with its velocity utility billing and customer management software for its UK and Romanian energy supply businesses.

Augusta Capital fell 0.5 percent to $1.07 after the company said the capital raising for its air traffic control centre in Christchurch closed oversubscribed and it won't take up any units under its $15 million underwrite.

(BusinessDesk)

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