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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge up; Infratil gains

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge up; Infratil gains after placement

By Paul McBeth

May 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares edged higher, with Infratil one of the most active stocks when it resumed trading after being halted for a $100 million placement last week.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 21.39 points, or 0.2 percent, to 10,237.48. Within the index, 32 stocks rose, 13 fell, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $114.4 million.

Infratil traded at $4.34, up 7.1 percent after adjusting for a rights offer. The stock was halted for the $100 million institutional component of the $400 million equity raising it is undertaking to help pay for its share of the $3.4 billion Vodafone New Zealand acquisition. Almost 2.1 million shares changed hands, more than four times its 90-day average of 496,000.

Peter McIntyre, an investment advisor at Craigs Investment Partners, said Infratil's return was a key point of interest for investors today. "It's trading well above the $4 placement level," he said.

Property stocks were among the day's better performers, in what McIntyre described as cautious trading. Investors are keen to lock in the predictable income streams from companies paying regular dividends.

Goodman Property Trust rose 2.5 percent to $1.85, Precinct Properties New Zealand increased 2.5 percent to $1.66, Investore Property advanced 2.4 percent to $1.72 on a volume of 1 million shares, and Stride Property was up 1.9 percent at $2.13.

SkyCity Entertainment Group was the most traded stock on a volume of almost 2.5 million shares, more than three times its 730,000 average. The casino operator today said it plans to launch a Malta-based online gaming platform later this year.

Spark New Zealand fell 1.2 percent to $3.78 on a volume of 2.3 million shares, less than half its usual volume, while Meridian Energy increased 0.5 percent to $4.42 with 1.8 million shares traded.

Chorus posted the biggest decline, down 1.9 percent at $5.76 on a volume of 1.2 million shares, adding to yesterday's decline when investors were spooked by the Commerce Commission's draft input methodologies for regulating the country's fibre network.

McIntyre said Chorus has had a strong run - it's up 19 percent so far this year - and some investors may be taking profit on those gains.

"As soon as you hear the word 'regulation' and 'Commerce Commission', investors do tend to get a little nervy," he said.

The network operator's 2028 bonds paying annual interest of 4.35 percent were the most traded debt security. They closed at a yield of 3.36 percent, down 5 basis points, on a volume of 1.8 million notes.

Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Kiwi Property Group rose 1.3 percent to $1.55, Fletcher Building increased 2.3 percent to $5.30, and Auckland International Airport fell 0.6 percent to $8.55.

Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units fell 0.7 percent to $4.20 after dairy prices fell at the Global Dairy Trade auction overnight. Fonterra Cooperative Group reports third-quarter earnings tomorrow. Synlait Milk fell 1 percent to $9.66 and A2 Milk decreased 0.7 percent to $16.02.

NZX rose 1.9 percent to $1.07 after agreeing to sell its FundSource research unit for an undisclosed sum. The deal completes its programme of non-core asset sales.

Outside the benchmark index, Serko fell 3.8 percent to $3.30 on a volume of 31,000 shares, about half its average. The online travel booking software developer lifted annual revenue 28 percent, meeting expectations. McIntyre said those growth stocks were "priced to perfection" and need to outperform for the price to rise.

AFT Pharmaceuticals fell 4.4 percent to $2.58 after narrowing its annual loss and turning cash flow positive.


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