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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed as Australia weighs

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed as Australia weighs; Ebos falls, Fletcher gains

Aug 1 (BusinessDesk) – New Zealand shares were mixed, with the NZX 50 Index eking out a small gain, as ongoing concern about the weaker Australian economy and associated high kiwi dollar weighed on companies including Ebos Group and Mainfreight, while Fletcher Building rose from a month low.

The NZX 50 rose 7.782 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4545.767. Within the index, 20 stocks rose, 17 fell and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $106 million, with brokers distracted by the news of how much stock they have been allocated in the Z Energy float.

The kiwi dollar rose to a new five-year high against its Australian counterpart, crimping the value New Zealand firms’ sales across the Tasman when they are brought home and compounding the effects of weak demand in Australia.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything stopping that cross rate from going higher,” said Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. “It is certainly a case of two very different economies.”

Ebos, which made its biggest-ever deal with the purchase this year of Zuellig Group’s Australian pharmaceutical wholesaler and distributor, Symbion, for $1.1 billion, fell 2.5 percent to $9.80. Mainfreight, which shareholders yesterday its earnings would be hurt by shrinking margins in Australia, fell 2.8 percent to $10.45.

Fletcher, which counts Australia as its second-largest market, rose 1.5 percent to $8.25, having sunk to the lowest since late June yesterday.

Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund fell 1.6 percent to $7.18, extending its slide since listing its forecast payout to farmers while keeping its dividend unchanged. While a stronger payout is good news for the broader economy, it doesn’t add to returns for unit holders.

The upgraded forecast “could actually hinder them (unit holders) somewhat,” Williamson said. “The fund is really a producer of product that comes from raw milk.”

Xero fell 1.2 percent to $17.10 after chief executive Rod Drury told shareholders at today’s annual meeting it expects to post a wider loss in 2014 as it continues to press ahead with growth plans. Xero added another 36,000 customers since March, and is forecasting an 80 percent lift in annual sales to some $70 million.

Briscoe Group, which isn’t in the top 50 due to managing director Rod Duke’s 78 percent stake, climbed 2.6 percent to $2.36 after the retail chain said first-half profit will gain by at least 9.7 percent to $14.6 million as second-quarter sales and margins continued to improve.

Other retailers were mixed, with Warehouse Group down 0.8 percent to $3.89, children’s clothing chain Pumpkin Patch down 2.3 percent to 85 cents, fastfood operator Restaurant Brands gained 0.4percent to $2.83 and clothing retailer Hallenstein Glasson increased 0.6 percent to $4.75.

Guinness Peat Group gained 0.9 percent to 55 cents after the firm said investors will have to wait a little longer for the completion of a UK regulator’s probe into its superannuation schemes, which has been extended. GPG is in the process of liquidating its portfolio until just the UK-based Coats threadmaking business remains.

Auckland International Airport gained 0.8 percent to $3.175 on bigger-than-normal turnover of $19.6 million, a day after getting the all-clear from the regulator over its targeted rate of return for the next five years.


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