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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain; appetite for KFC

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain; appetite for KFC helps Restaurant Brands hit record

By Paul McBeth

Sept. 19 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, led by a recovery in fuel retailer Z Energy and as Restaurant Brands New Zealand hit a record.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 26.2 points, or 0.2 percent, to 10,801.05. Within the index, 22 stocks rose, 17 fell, and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $95.5 million.

Stocks across Asia were mixed, as investors digested the Federal Reserve's divided outlook for interest rates after policymakers voted to cut the federal funds rate. The Shanghai Composite Index was flat in afternoon trading, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.6 percent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 1.3 percent.

Local data showed the economy grew at a faster quarterly pace than predicted, as strength in the nation's services sector and agriculture more than made up for a contraction in construction and manufacturing.

Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets, said the local economy is proving to be resilient, while at the same time fears for a global recession were subsiding, based on bond market pricing.

"The weak space for New Zealand is among consumers, but we've got a rate cut, and we probably are going to get another one later this year," he said.

Freightways, often seen as a bellwether stock for the economy, rose 0.9 percent to $8.17.

Z Energy, the country's biggest fuel retailer, led the market higher, up 2.8 percent at $5.50 on a volume of 818,000 shares, more than its 90-day average of 664,000. The service station chain operator sank as much as 19 percent during the course of a week after it issued a profit warning on unprecedented discounting by its rivals and as investors weighed up the impact of the attacks on Saudi Arabian processing facilities.

Restaurant Brands rose 2.2 percent to an all-time high $11.26 after reporting a 3.5 percent increase in second-quarter sales. The fast food operator's KFC chain continued to drive sales growth for the company, more than offsetting the loss of its lacklustre Starbucks Coffee chain.

"The next big growth driver for Restaurant Brands is Taco Bell. You've seen tastes around Mexican food change quite a bit over the last 10 years or so," Smith said.

Outdoor equipment chain Kathmandu Holdings rose for a fifth day, up 0.3 percent at $2.99 on a volume of 1.7 million shares, almost 10-times its 182,000 average. Yesterday it reported earnings at the top-end of its upgraded guidance, including a stand-out performance from its Oboz footwear unit in the US.

Goodman Property Trust was the most traded stock on a volume of 4.1 million units after it resumed trading today. The property investor went into a halt yesterday to raise $150 million in a placement at $2.10 a unit. The stock fell 1.6 percent to $2.16 today, still above the sale price.

Spark New Zealand fell 0.9 percent, or 4 cents, to $4.48 after shedding rights to 12.5 cents of dividends. Almost 1.3 million Spark shares changed hands.

Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Kiwi Property Group was unchanged at $1.615 and Air New Zealand fell 0.7 percent to $2.68.

Port of Tauranga was down 2.2 percent, or 14 cents, after ceding rights to a 12.3 cent dividend. The port operator also said chief financial officer Steve Gray will retire next year, and that commercial manager Leonard Sampson has been appointed chief operating officer.

A2 Milk fell for a third day, down 2.5 percent at $13.36 on a volume of 729,000 shares, compared to its 804,000 average.

Smith said there may be some concern that China Mengniu Dairy's proposed A$1.5 billion takeover for Bellamy's Australia may create a stronger competitor for A2 in the important Chinese market.

Synlait Milk, which supplies A2, fell 2 percent to $9.11 and Fonterra Shareholders' Fund units were unchanged at $3.20.

Outside the benchmark index, Scott Technology fell 1.6 percent to $2.49 after appointing Pacific Edge executive Kate Rankin as its new chief financial officer. Pacific Edge shares were unchanged at 20.5 cents.

QEX Logistics rose 1.5 percent to 70 cents after telling shareholders that it remains upbeat about the Chinese appetite for milk powder, where demand continues to outstrip supply.

(BusinessDesk)

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