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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down as A2, Comvita keep falling

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down as A2, Comvita keep falling, Ryman and Heartland rise

By Sophie Boot

May 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell, led lower by continued selling in A2 Milk Co and Comvita, while Ryman Healthcare and Heartland Bank gained.

The S&P/NZX50 Index dropped 2.4 points, or 0.03 percent, to 8,613.32. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 16 rose and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $140 million.

A2 Milk Co led the index lower, down 3 percent to $10.71. 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, and it dropped 2.3 percent yesterday.

"There was a bit of weakness in A2 after it slightly missing mark last week, and it's still under a bit of pressure there," said Grant Davies, investment advisor at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

Davies said the market was quiet today ahead of a number of company earnings tomorrow - Argosy Property, Serko and AFT Pharmaceuticals are set to report.

Comvita dropped 2.6 percent to $6.07, having fallen 8 percent yesterday when the honey products exporter said it has pulled out of talks with an unnamed third party looking to take it over as it couldn't reach a deal on price.

Kathmandu Holdings fell 1.9 percent to $2.53, Contact Energy declined 1.4 percent to $5.56, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp dropped 1.3 percent to $30.39.

Ryman Healthcare was the best performer, up 1.8 percent to $11.60.

Heartland Bank gained 1.7 percent to $1.83. On Friday, the bank posted it had lifted third-quarter profit 11 percent on continued lending growth and said it expects annual earnings to be at the upper end of its previously advised range of $65 million to $68 million.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp rose 1.3 percent to $13.35, Precinct Properties New Zealand advanced 1.2 percent to $1.28, and Skycity Entertainment Group was up 1 percent to $3.99.

Outside the benchmark index, Steel & Tube Holdings shares have been halted from trading at $1.98 pending a board review of the steel products maker's financial performance, which the company expects will change earnings guidance.

"I wouldn't want to guess, but based on recent updates it's more likely to be a downgrade than an upgrade," Davies said. "It will be interesting to see what they come out with."

Veritas gained 45 percent to 14.5 cents, after yesterday doubling to 10 cents when it announced Japanese investment bank Nomura Holdings will lend it $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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