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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed ahead of Anzac Day holiday

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed ahead of Anzac Day holiday; A2, Synlait fall further, Fisher & Paykel bounces

By Sophie Boot

April 24 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares were mixed in light trading ahead of tomorrow's public holiday, with A2 Milk Co and Synlait Milk continuing to weaken while Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Corp rebounded and Fletcher Building extended gains.

The S&P/NZX50 Index dropped 14.98 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8,288.64. Within the index, 21 shares rose, 20 fell and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $100 million, with the index trading lightly ahead of tomorrow's Anzac Day public holiday, which will see the NZX and ASX exchanges closed, and as New Zealand school holidays continue.

"It's very quiet again today, not a lot of movement across the board. A lot of investors do take most of the week off, so it can be quite disruptive," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "Overall the market is a touch weaker, we got mixed signals from overseas. The market doesn't have a lot of direction to it - we're really in a consolidation phase at the moment."

Leading the index today was Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, up 1.9 percent to $12.20. The stock hit a seven-month low of $11.97 yesterday and has dropped 14 percent so far this year.

"It's a little bit firmer today, the shares have been weakening for a while now and it has really come off the boil but it's showing a bit of strength today," Williamson said. "There's possibly a bit of bargain hunting, and the slightly weaker currency might be a reason too."

Trade Me Group gained 1.4 percent to $4.47, Fletcher Building rose 1.3 percent to $6.28 and Genesis Energy advanced 1.1 percent to $2.235.

A2 Milk was again the worst performer on the index, dropping 3 percent to $12, with its supplier Synlait Milk falling 2.6 percent to $9.56. Both stocks have been weakening since Nestle announced it has launched a competing A2 milk protein infant formula in China, with investors unsettled by competition in the market which has proven so fruitful for A2 thus far. A negative report today from an Australian broker may have spurred selling, Williamson said.

Z Energy fell 1.7 percent to $7.10, Infratil declined 1.4 percent to $3.16 and Trustpower was down 1.4 percent to $5.66.

Outside the benchmark index, dual-listed AMP shares dropped 3.6 percent to $4.33. In Australia, the wealth manager has come under fire over revelations about its conduct made at a Royal Commission public inquiry into misconduct within the banking and finance industries. Chief executive Craig Meller quit on Friday over the scandal.

On the ASX, the shares traded down 2.3 percent to A$4.075 around 5pm New Zealand time, and have dropped 15 percent since AMP first began being publicly questioned by the Royal Commission last week.

"It remains under significant pressure, with regulators looking closely at what's going on, and investors have lost a lot of confidence in that stock," Williamson said.

ASX-listed Vocus Group had gained 1.6 percent to A$2.275 at around 5pm New Zealand time. It announced today that it will hold on to its New Zealand businesses including CallPlus, 2talk, Orcon, Slingshot, Flip, and local fibre line provider previously called FX Networks, saying it didn't get any offers attractive enough to entice a sale.

The Melbourne-based company put the New Zealand business on the block last October with a view to selling it by June 2018 to help repay debt taken on during a period of rapid expansion. Today it said it's ended all discussions with interested parties due to the lack of good offers, and the board "intends to continue to invest in and grow Vocus NZ to enable that business to realise its strategic potential for shareholders."

(BusinessDesk)

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