MARKET CLOSE New Zealand: Shares rise as A2 reports strong earnings; Summerset, Freightways extend gains

New Zealand stocks rose as A2 Corp reported strong growth in its first-half sales, while Summerset Holdings and Freightways extended gains made on solid earnings.

The NZX 50 Index rose 5.687 points, or about 0.1 percent, to 4973.198. Within the index 30 stocks rose, 16 fell and four were unchanged. Turnover was $112 million.

Half of New Zealand's benchmark index listed companies have reported either full-year or first-half earnings.

A2, which makes milk with added protein for health benefits, rose 2.2 percent to 95 cents. The dairy exporter reported 22 percent growth in the six months ended Dec. 31.

"A2 was expected to deliver a good result, and they all seem to be delivering pretty good results, though it's fair to say that investors are expecting them," Chris Timms, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "There haven't been any massive surprises; the best I've seen was Summerset's yesterday, which was a really good result."

Summerset rose 0.9 percent to 95 cents, extending yesterday's 3.3 percent gain. The retirement village operator doubled its annual profit to a record $34 million on record sales.

Freightways, the nation's largest listed courier, gained 2.1 percent to $4.90, adding to a two-day rally after earnings earlier this week showed growth across its businesses.

MightyRiverPower, the partially privatised electricity company, fell 1 percent to $2.02. The company reported 3.7 percent increase in first-half earnings as it cut costs amid poor hydro conditions. Fellow partially privatised energy company Meridian rose 0.5 percent to $1.06.

The government today announced plans to sell down between 30 percent and 49 percent of its holding in Genesis Energy, listing it on the NZX in April, and marking the end of its asset sale programme over the past year. The shares will be priced at the start of the initial public offer period in March, in what is known as a front-end bookbuild.

"They've taken a different approach on Genesis," Timms said, who couldn't comment specifically on the news as Craigs is involved in Genesis' IPO. "Whether there is a bit of people trying to look around and assess what this means for them, and where they should be placing things, it's hard to know."

Contact Energy rose 1.2 percent to $5.21, while lines company Vector fell 0.8 percent to $2.42.

Guinness Peat Group, which has largely finished liquidating its investment portfolio, led the day's gainers, up 3 percent to 69 cents.

Online auction site Trade Me Group was the index's worst performer on the day, dropping 2.7 percent to $4.03. Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest listed company, slipped 0.5 percent to $9.67 and cloud-based accounting software company Xero fell 1.2 percent to $40.

"Fletchers is down after having a pretty good run, and Trade Me is down after a good run, Xero as well," Timms said. "It does look like there's been a bit of profit-taking going on."

Telecom gained 1.7 percent to $2.43. Auckland International Airport was unchanged at $3.725.

DNZ Property Fund fell 0.1 percent, or 1.5 cents, to $1.505 after shedding rights to its interim dividend, of 2.25 cents per share, payable on March 14.

Outside of the benchmark index, Tourism Holdings, Australia and New Zealand's largest holiday vehicle rental company, jumped 13 percent to $1.19 after beating guidance and increasing first-half earnings 36 percent. Retail website search engine company SLI Systems fell 1.8 percent to $2.75, after it turned a net loss of $2.3 million in the first-half.

Team Talk slipped 2.3 percent to $2.13.The Wellington-based telecommunications provider lifted first-half profit 27 percent and plans to trim dividend payments from October to fund expansion into rural internet services.

NZAX-listed Chatham Rock Phosphate fell 3.5 percent to 28 cents. The company is developing a project to mine phosphate from the sea floor said it expects to list on London's AIM after several UK investors gave its venture backing.

(BusinessDesk)

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