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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall; Sky routed

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall; Sky routed on lost cricket rights

New Zealand shares fell as Sky Network Television was routed by the loss of its rights to broadcast domestic cricket matches, the stock slumping to an all-time low in heavy trading.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 54.13 points, or 0.5 percent, to 10,886.73. Within the index, 27 stocks fell, 19 rose, and four were unchanged. Turnover was $145.3 million.

Sky sank 20.7 percent to 88 cents on a volume of 3.3 million shares, more than four times its 90-day average of 814,000. The pay-TV operator lost the rights to broadcast cricket played domestically after being outbid by rival Spark New Zealand at a time when Sky's market value of $365 million hinders its ability to make big offers without having to ask shareholders for permission.

"They may have to increase what they pay for other content to hang on to it and it does create a real question mark for the business," said Shane Solly, a portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management. Sky will ask shareholders for greater freedom when bidding to retain the SAANZAR rugby rights, which end late 2020, at next week's annual meeting.

Spark fell 2.9 percent to $4.48 on a volume of 2.5 million shares, less than its 3.1 million average. The telecommunications company's gambit for cricket comes at a time when its ability to live-stream sports has been questioned by unhappy customers of its Rugby World Cup coverage. It has attracted 186,000 subscribers.

Chorus posted the day's biggest gain, up 2.2 percent at $5.15 on a volume of 1.5 million shares, well up on its 521,000 average. It yesterday reported record demand for fibre connections in the September quarter and noted increased data usage from the rugby live-streaming.

The market was generally weaker as investors navigate waxing and waning optimism as to whether US and Chinese trade officials will make any headway in this week's negotiations. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.2 percent in afternoon trading, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.2 percent, and South Korea's Kospi 200 Index dropped 1.1 percent.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which derives half its revenue in US dollars, fell 3 percent to $16.90. Global logistics group Mainfreight declined 1 percent to $38.50 and fruit exporter Scales Corp was down 0.8 percent at $4.95.

Fletcher Building was the most traded stock on a volume of 7 million shares, more than five times its 1.4 million average. It fell 1.3 percent to $4.74.

Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Mercury NZ rose 0.4 percent to $5.50, Contact Energy fell 0.7 percent to $8.97, Kiwi Property Group decreased 0.9 percent to $1.65 and Goodman Property Trust increased to $2.24.

A2 Milk rose 0.8 percent to $12.91, Meridian Energy was up 1.2 percent at $5.275, Ryman Healthcare advanced 1.2 percent to $13.15, and Port of Tauranga increased 1.1 percent to $6.45.

Outside the benchmark index, Evolve Education fell 2.5 percent to 11.6 cents after saying it will reduce board fees by 16.7 percent from December. Managing director Chris Scott is still reviewing the entire business operations.

Augusta Capital rose 2 percent to $1.52 after it said its partnership with Melbourne-based Ninety Four Feet has signed a binding agreement with Queenstown Lakes District Council for a seven-stage development over 10 years.

Colonial Motor Co fell 2.3 percent, or 21 cents, to $8.87 after shedding rights to a 30-cent dividend.

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