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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain as investors take stock

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain as investors take stock in earnings season; Skellerup hits new highs

By Paul McBeth

Aug. 17 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose as investors took stock in a brief lull to the domestic corporate earnings season, with Skellerup Holdings extending yesterday's gain to break a new record.

The S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 53.86 points, or 0.6 percent to 9,052.77, the highest since July 10. Within the index, 32 stocks gained, eight fell, and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $96.3 million.

Earnings season took a breather today ahead of heavy reporting days next Wednesday and Thursday. Local investors took the opportunity to digest the early starters, such as Skellerup's record profit yesterday. The shares rose 4.8 percent to a record $2.19, adding to yesterday's 4 percent gain.

Among other companies to have already reported, SkyCity Entertainment Group increased 1 percent to $4.19, Freightways gained 0.5 percent to $7.58, Contact Energy slipped 0.2 percent to $5.80, Precinct Properties New Zealand was unchanged at $1.415, while Summerset Group Holdings declined 0.9 percent to $7.50.

"It is the calm before the storm - next Wednesday we've got an enormous day of market cap reporting," said Nikko Asset Management head of equities Stuart Williams. "Anyone who's disappointing in this result or in terms of their future guidance is getting absolutely slammed, so there's little room for disappointment."

Blue chip stocks underpinned the day's wider gain. Ryman Healthcare rose 3.7 percent to $13.35, Air New Zealand increased 1.5 percent to $3.37, Mainfreight advanced 1.3 percent to $28.15, Spark New Zealand gained 0.9 percent to $3.96 and Auckland International Airport was up 0.8 percent to $6.865.

Mercury NZ, which reports next Tuesday, today announced a pilot subscription service letting people rent a range of electric vehicles on a monthly basis. Its shares rose 0.3 percent to $3.38. Meridian Energy reports next Wednesday and was up 1 percent to $3.17 today, while Genesis Energy, which reports near the end of the month, gained 0.2 percent to $2.555.

Tourism Holdings fell 0.5 percent to $6.04 after saying chief financial officer Mark Davis was on a leave of absence for health reasons and won't be back until next month. The rental campervan operator delayed its full-year announcement by a week over the ill health.

Pushpay Holdings posted the largest decline, falling 1.1 percent to $3.64. Arvida Group slipped 0.7 percent to $1.34 and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare dropped 0.4 percent to $14.90.

NZAX-listed Geneva Finance was unchanged at 60 cents after agreeing to buy a 60 percent stake in Federal Pacific Finance, Tonga for $3.8 million in cash and shares. The shares component will be issued at 70 cents each, a premium which managing director David O'Connell said "more accurately reflects Geneva's underlying value".

(BusinessDesk)

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