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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain; Spark dominates

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares gain; Spark dominates in moribund trading

By Paul McBeth

Oct. 29 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose in lacklustre trading dominated by Spark New Zealand, which will update shareholders at this week's annual meeting.

The S&P/NZX index increased 47.14 points, or 0.6 percent, to 8,615.54. Within the index, 25 stocks gained, 16 fell and nine were unchanged, Turnover was $66.3 million, of which Spark accounted for $10.3 million.

Some 15.4 million shares of top 50 stocks were traded today, less than the 90-day average of 25.3 million. Craigs Investment Partners adviser Peter McIntyre described trading as subdued ahead of a busy week for US corporate earnings and a number of local annual meetings. Just two companies had volumes of more than 1 million shares.

"There were really light volumes which suggest there's not a lot of conviction in the market currently," McIntyre said.

Spark was the most traded stock with 2.7 million shares changing hands. It rose 1 percent to $3.87 ahead of its annual meeting on Friday, where shareholders will get an update on how the telecommunications company's new drive to improve margins is tracking.

McIntyre said Spark is widely held by international investors because of a high dividend - a gross yield of 6.5 percent - and very good liquidity.

Sky Network Television gained 2.2 percent to $2.30 after the pay-TV operator won a High Court ruling against My Box that using the internet-streaming service to show Sky movies, TV and sports programmes breached copyright. Volumes were lighter than usual.

Trade Me led the market higher, up 2.4 percent to $4.75 on very light volumes. Dual-listed Westpac Banking Corp gained 2.2 percent to $28.50.

Z Energy increased 0.3 percent to $5.94 on volumes of 1 million, slightly more than usual. The transport fuels company will report first-half earnings on Thursday. It's been under pressure in recent weeks as domestic petrol prices rose to new records on a weaker currency and rising global oil prices. The government has also fast-tracked legislation to enable regulated market studies with a view to target petrol companies first.

NZX was unchanged at $1.03 on half its normal volume after reporting a 3.8 percent increase in third-quarter revenue. That was largely on the strength of its funds management business.

Kiwi Property Group fell 1.9 percent to $1.31 on smaller volumes than normal. The property investor announced plans to raise up to $125 million through a listed seven-year bond offer. The proceeds will repay bank debt.

Pushpay Holdings fell 3 percent to $3.55 on a tenth of its usual volumes. The National Business Review today reported co-founder Eliot Crowther, who unexpectedly and abruptly left the company and cashed up $100 million of stock, is locked in a legal dispute with his ex-wife over his representations of the stake's value.

Gentrack Group slipped 2.3 percent to $6.40 and Synlait Milk declined 1.7 percent to $8.27, both on very light trading.

Outside the benchmark index, AWF Madison rose 2.3 percent to $1.77 on light volumes after the recruitment firm maintained its interim dividend, even as first-half profit dropped 40 percent.

New Zealand Oil & Gas rose 3.3 percent to 63 cents after the explorer said it will begin comprehensive electronic logging of the Kohatukai-1 well.

PGG Wrightson increased 1.8 percent to 58 cents ahead of tomorrow's combined annual and special meeting, where investors will vote on whether to sell its seeds division. The rural services firm today said chair Alan Lai will retire effective tomorrow.


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