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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Comvita, A2, Kiwi Property weaken while Veritas shares double in price

By Sophie Boot

May 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares dropped, led lower by Comvita as its possible takeover failed, with A2 Milk continuing last week's losses and Kiwi Property Group dropping on its earnings.

The S&P/NZX50 Index fell 41.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to 8,615.72. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 17 rose and 9 were unchanged. Turnover was $103 million.

Comvita led the index lower, dropping 8 percent to $6.23. The honey products exporter has pulled out of talks with an unnamed third party looking to take it over when it couldn't reach a deal on price.

Comvita said that in negotiations "we could not bridge the considerable distance between us on price and therefore, Comvita directors unanimously agreed to withdraw from the process."

As a result, "discussions between Comvita and that third party have now concluded with no agreement on a transaction. The due diligence process and further consideration of any proposal to acquire Comvita is now at an end."

A2 Milk Co fell 2.3 percent to $11.04. Last week, the milk marketer's shares slumped 13 percent after it missed expectations, prompting some analysts to reassess what have been optimistic assumptions for the company's outlook.

"There's a bit of analysis into the outlook which is being digested, there still could be people taking a profit after a stellar run," said Greg Easton, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "The volume on A2 today is nothing like we saw on the day of the announcement, that was incredible."

Kiwi Property Group dropped 2.2 percent to $1.36. The real estate investor lifted annual earnings 8.2 percent as its rental income was boosted by the completion of several developments and new acquisitions, although smaller revaluation gains led to a fall in bottom line profit.

"If you read through a bit, it seems retail is a different story around the country - the main centres like Sylvia Park appear to be doing well, but the more regional ones like North City in Porirua not so good. They're pretty predictable, property stocks, so that result was in line," Easton said.

Kathmandu Holdings declined 2.6 percent to $2.58, Synlait Milk dropped 1.8 percent to $10.30, and Spark New Zealand fell 1.7 percent to $3.48.

Pushpay Holdings was the best performer, up 2 percent to $4.07.

Goodman Property Trust rose 1.4 percent to $1.43. On Friday, the real estate investor's joint venture with Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC sold seven Auckland CBD buildings to US private equity firm Blackstone for $635 million, meaning the NZX-listed property trust will reap $323.9 million.

Tourism Holdings gained 1.7 percent to $6.50, New Zealand Refining Company advanced 1.3 percent to $2.42, and Heartland Bank was up 1.1 percent to $1.80.

Outside the benchmark index, Veritas Investment shares doubled to 10 cents. Japanese investment bank Nomura Holdings will lend Veritas $27.5 million to repay bank debt and fund expansion in the hospitality sector, if Veritas' shareholders agree.

The food and beverage investor has been operating under the close watch of ANZ Bank New Zealand, which has effectively overseen a wind-down of the business to claw back as much as possible of the $22.5 million it is owed, and has extended the tranches of the company's bank debt four times since October 2017.


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