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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall with some blue chip gains

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall with blue chips A2, Ryman; F&P Healthcare gains

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 26 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares fell in light trading as blue-chip stocks including A2 Milk Co, Ryman Healthcare and Fletcher Building followed Australia lower. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare gained after reporting increased earnings.

The S&P/NZX 50 index decreased 39.01 points, or 0.4 percent, to 8,662.37. Within the index, 24 stocks fell, 18 gained and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $85.7 million, quieter than usual.

Trading was relatively subdued after the Thanksgiving holiday-shortened week in the US left markets slightly weaker on Friday. Stock markets across Asia were mixed today, although New Zealand moved lower with Australia, where the ASX 200 index was down 0.9 percent in afternoon trading.

Blue-chip stocks led the market lower, with A2 Milk down 3.1 percent to $10.20 on less than half its average volume. The milk marketing firm is the most volatile stock on the NZX 50 on a close-to-close basis, with much of its activity driven out of Australia. Ryman led the market lower, down 3.9 percent to $11.03 on smaller volumes than usual. Fletcher fell 0.6 percent to $4.66 on average volume of 1.5 million.

"We've started the week on a weaker note," said Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "Most of the blue-chips are a little bit weaker - particularly A2, although that's a pretty volatile company."

F&P Healthcare gained 1.8 percent to $13.30 after it lifted first-half profit 20 percent and affirmed annual earnings growth. The breathing mask maker said second-half earnings will rely in-part on how many people in the Northern Hemisphere get the flu.

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Sky Network Television climbed 4.4 percent to $2.40 after announcing veteran British media executive Martin Stewart will take over as chief executive from February next year. That was the biggest gain on the day, in lighter than usual trading.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand increased 1.8 percent to $8.60. Suitor Finaccess Capital plans to mount a partial takeover bid at $9.45 a share and has entered into a lock-up arrangement with director Stephen Copulos who owns about 8.6 percent.

Spark New Zealand was the most active stock, up 0.3 percent at $4.085 on volumes of 2.5 million shares, slightly less than its 90-day average. Kiwi Property Group was unchanged at $1.38 on a volume of 1.2 million shares, and Meridian Energy decreased 0.5 percent to $3.17 on 1.3 million shares.

Heartland Group rose 0.7 percent to $1.48 on volumes of one million shares, about three times its average. The lender recently restructured its business to separate its licensed banking unit and Australian reverse mortgage division.

Metro Performance Glass slumped 25 percent to a record close of 40 cents after reporting weaker first-half earnings, trimming annual guidance and suspending dividend payments.

Eroad dropped 8.1 percent to $2.50 after reporting a narrower first-half loss. Williamson said the increased operating costs were more than investors expected.

March and September company earnings continue tomorrow with Arvida Group and Turners Automotive, which were respectively unchanged at $1.30 and up 3.4 percent at $2.72.

Motor Trade Finance, which counts Turners as a shareholder, reported a 9.3 percent increase in annual earnings, maintaining profitability despite slowing sales in the second half. The auto-lender has listed preference shares on the NZX debt market, which were unchanged at 64 cents.


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