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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Fletcher drops

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares down, Fletcher drops while Restaurant Brands, Synlait gain

By Sophie Boot

Sept. 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares closed lower, with Fletcher Building dropping while Synlait and Restaurant Brands gained on good sales.

The S&P/NZX50 Index fell 23.83 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,795.41. Within the index, 23 stocks fell, 16 rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $134 million.

Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management, said the market was unsure about the outcome of this weekend's general election and didn't know how to react to last night's Colmar Brunton poll, which showed the incumbent National Party ahead.

"The currency market reacted to Colmar Brunton last night but I'm not sure whether anyone really knows whether to believe the polls or not, as Brexit and Trump have shown us they can be less than accurate, and particularly with the decline in landlines one wonders about the sample that they're getting," Goodson said. "Probably the worst outcome for the market would be if there isn't a clear outcome.

"If neither National nor Labour could form a coalition with just one other party, if there needed to be a coalition of many, that would be the worst for policy uncertainty - people would perhaps keep their wallets in their pockets until that was resolved one way or another," Goodson said. "We're watching the retirement sector as it's most directly affected by housing and a variety of policies - migration, tax."

Retirement stocks were mixed today, with Metlifecare down 0.2 percent to $5.71 and Ryman dipping 0.1 percent to $9.16 while Summerset was up 0.4 percent to $5.

Fletcher Building led the index lower, down 4.8 percent or 39 cents to $7.77. The stock gave up rights to a 19 cent dividend today, but Goodson said the further fall could be down to media commentary.

"There's press speculation about further losses in their contracting business which may be playing a part in that weakness. There have been several board and exec changes in the past few days," he said.

Spark New Zealand dropped 3.3 percent, or 12.5 cents, to $3.71, having given up rights to an 11 cent final dividend and a 1.5 cent special dividend. Port of Tauranga dropped 2.1 percent, or 9 cents, after giving up a 6.2 cent final dividend and a 5 cent special dividend.

Synlait was the best performer, up 1.5 percent to $5.48. It was the worst performer yesterday but reached an all-time high of $5.54 on Tuesday after posting an 11 percent increase in annual profit.

Restaurant Brands gained 0.8 percent to $6.39. The fast-food operator lifted second-quarter sales by 41 percent to $224.9 million after it expanded its footprint through Australia and Hawaii.

In April 2016 it expanded into KFC in Australia and in March 2017 bought the largest fast-food operator in Hawaii. Chief executive Russel Creedy told shareholders at the annual meeting in June that the company was now "truly international" and expected sales this financial year to exceed $700 million, up from $497.2 million last year.

Chorus rose 0.3 percent to $4.02. The Wellington-based telecommunications network operator will underwrite its dividend reinvestment programme, issuing shares to the underwriter at the 3 percent discount for the portion not taken up by shareholders.


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