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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge up

MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares edge up as Auckland Airport, Summerset lift earnings


Feb. 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand shares rose, with heavy trading in Auckland International Airport and Air New Zealand after the airport operator lifted earnings and said it will cut airline landing fees.

The S&P/NZX 50 index increased 8.4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 9,309.21. Within the index, 20 stocks gained, 19 fell, and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $160.1 million.

Auckland Airport rose 1 percent to $7.42 on a volume of 2.7 million shares, more than twice its average. The airport operator lifted underlying first-half earnings almost 3 percent to $136.9 million on increased aircraft movements and passenger numbers. Capital expenditure fell to $132.3 million from $208.3 million, and the airport operator scaled down its annual forecast as it pushed out construction work on some larger projects.

David Price, a broker at Forsyth Barr, said the forecast capex was significantly lower.

"That will reduce its depreciation burden in the next few years and we'll probably revise up our forecasts," he said. "It was a good operational performance - retail was very strong."

The airport also announced plans to cut its regulated fees for airlines after the Commerce Commission wasn't convinced that the company's $1.8 billion infrastructure programme warranted the pricing schedule.

Air New Zealand rose 1.5 percent to $2.65, with 5.8 million shares changing hands, compared to its 789,000 90-day average.

Summerset Group increased 0.8 percent to $6.33 on a volume of 151,000 shares, after reporting a 21 percent increase in annual underlying earnings. Its net profit shrank as the housing market's slowdown led to smaller gains in the value of its property portfolio.

Price said the result was "solid enough" and in line with forecasts: "No surprise is a good thing."

Synlait Milk led the market higher, up 3.3 percent at $10.33. About 387,000 shares changed hands, almost four times its three-month average.

Meridian Energy rose 2.2 percent to $3.71 on a volume of 1.9 million, Mercury NZ rose 2.2 percent to $3.71 on 249,000 shares, and Contact Energy was up 2.1 percent at $6.44 on a volume of 393,000. Fletcher Building increased 1.6 percent to $4.98 on a volume of 1.9 million.

Z Energy rose 0.2 percent to $6.10 on slightly lighter than usual volumes after announcing independent director Abby Foote will succeed Peter Griffiths as chair when he steps down in May.

Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock with 7.5 million shares changing hands, compared to its usual 4 million. The shares fell 1.1 percent to $3.71. Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Trade Me decreased 0.2 percent to $6.39, Precinct Properties New Zealand was unchanged at $1.48, and Sky Network Television fell 2.4 percent to $1.60.

Refining NZ fell 4 percent to $2.17, its lowest close since 2016. The operator of the Marsden Point oil refinery said it faces higher operating costs this year due to only partial hedge cover against currently high electricity prices, spending on a consent renewal for the site in 2022, and costs from the government's fuel security review and the Commerce Commission's fuel market study.

Price said rising costs have been a feature of the corporate earnings season, especially with the increase in wages and the electricity price spike late last year.

"We'll continue to see margins under pressure as a broad brush theme - I don't think these things are going away."

A2 Milk fell from a record, down 1.5 percent at $14.60 on a smaller than usual volume of 922,000 shares.

Outside the benchmark index, carpetmaker Cavalier Corp fell 5.9 percent, or 3 cents, to 48 cents. The company, which beat guidance with a normalised first-half net profit of $1.9 million, warned that the second half would be more challenging given reduced consumer confidence and flooring sales in both New Zealand and Australia.

Moa Group fell 2.3 percent, or 1 cent, to 43 cents after announcing plans to raise $3 million at a discounted 38 cents a share. The funds will help pay for its acquisition of bar and restaurant owner Savor Group for as much as $21.4 million. Shareholders will vote on the deal next month.

(BusinessDesk)

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