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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain, risk-on for Synlait and A2 as Sky TV rises

By Sophie Boot

March 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, led by Synlait Milk and a2 Milk Co, with Sky Network Television rebounding from yesterday's selling.

The S&P/NZX50 Index gained 75.71 points, or 0.9 percent, to 8,508.12. Within the index, 26 stocks rose, 16 fell and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $145.8 million.

"The market is bouncing back after being sold off a bit further yesterday," said Grant Davies, investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "Today's a risk-on day, the market got sold off over the past two days on reasonably low volumes and it has been bid back up on better volumes. A2 and Synlait have done well on that, they're high growth stocks which require plenty of international trade happening."

Synlait Milk was the best performer, up 6.9 percent to $9.10, while A2 Milk Co gained 3.3 percent to $13.84.

Sky Network Television rose 6.6 percent to $2.42. Yesterday, long-standing chief executive John Fellet announced he plans to retire within the next year, after 17 years running the country's dominant pay-TV company. Separately, Sky released an investor briefing showing it's moving to provide more on-demand services as it works to retain its sports rights and stabilise core earnings. It plans to introduce upgraded set-top boxes with on-demand functions and the ability to support higher-quality content, along with IP-only set-top boxes which deliver content via fibre instead of via satellite and an app-only platform.

"That presentation is looking through it was a little bit more positive, a bit more forward-looking than some people gave them credit for," Davies said. "There were some worries there might be a loss of negotiating skills with John Fellet gone, but he will still be on the board so that's not lost."

Contact Energy rose 2.5 percent to $5.29, Meridian Energy gained 1.7 percent to $2.98, and Fisher & Paykel Health Corp advanced 1.7 percent to $13.30.

Comvita was the worst performer, down 3.3 percent to $7.25, while Vector dropped 3.3 percent to $3.23.

Skycity Entertainment Group fell 1.3 percent to $3.85. It is looking to free up cash from its existing assets during a period of heavy investment while it commits to protecting dividend payouts.

To raise cash, the company said it has appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to test interest from "selected parties" in its Darwin casino as it continues to evaluate strategic options for the business, including a full sale. Any funds from a sale would be used to repay debt in the short term, and fund strategic and growth initiatives, it said.

"They have traded sideways for quite a while now," Davies said. "The market was probably hoping they would be able to bundle this through cash flows rather than asset sales, and from an investment perspective hoping they will look to divest some of the underperforming Australian assets"


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