MARKET CLOSE: Shares rise on earnings; Port of Tauranga, Fletcher Building advance

New Zealand shares rose for a third day as reporting season gave investors confidence in the local bourse. Port of Tauranga and Fletcher Building, which both beat expectations, paced the advance. Genesis Energy led power companies lower on concern the election could bring in a government intent on regulating prices.

The NZX 50 Index rose 12.577 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5152.915. Within the index, 27 stocks rose, 16 fell and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $124 million.

Local earnings season is well underway, with 18 benchmark index companies reporting over the past three weeks. Investors have been looking for evidence the 8.5 percent gain in the NZX 50 this year is backed by earnings growth.

"The reports that have come out have given some confidence to investors and buying has returned," said Grant Williamson, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. "It's not a big rise but we're getting further results out and some movement on those results."

Port of Tauranga led the benchmark index higher, gaining 3.9 percent to a record $15.90, after reporting a 1.3 percent gain in underlying earnings to $78.3 million in the year ended June 30, beating NZ First Capital's forecast, as an increase in the volume of logs across its wharves made up for a decline in containers. Volume is set to gain because Tauranga has won back a contract with Maersk, the global shipping line, after a deal with the Fonterra Cooperative Group and Silver Fern Farms-led logistics company Kotahi.

"For Port of Tauranga the earnings didn't seem to be increased by that much, which was correct as the company said it was a watershed year, but they've got a lot going on at the moment, which is going to produce some pretty big dividends for the company in the future," Williamson said.

Fletcher Building rose 1.1 percent to $9.27, its highest since mid-May with more than $38.6 million worth of shares in New Zealand's largest listed company changing hands. The construction and building supplies company beat market expectations yesterday after posting a 4 percent gain in annual profit to $339 million.

"Fletcher Building is having a good day today following their results. Investors like it and like the outlook for the company as well," Williamson said.

With less than a month until New Zealand's general election, investors are wary of political uncertainty, Williamson said. Although polls largely show the incumbent National-led government returning for a third term led by Prime Minister John Key, the ongoing political scandal surrounding the 'Dirty Politics' book may undermine his brand. The energy sector is most affected by political uncertainty, as the opposition parties, the Greens and Labour, have promised if elected to further regulate the energy sector, including setting up a state-owned single electricity buyer, in a bid to push down prices.

MightyRiverPower, the state-controlled energy company floated by the government last year, slipped 0.4 percent to $2.36, after yesterday posting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and changes in the value of financial instruments were 1 percent ahead of its April 2013 prospectus forecast at $504 million in the year to June 30.

Meridian Energy fell 0.4 percent to $1.25. Genesis Energy dropped 1.4 percent to $1.76. TrustPower slipped 0.9 percent to $6.89. Vector advanced 0.8 percent to $2.60. Contact Energy rose 0.2 percent to $5.50.

"With the ongoing media at the moment, National is under some pressure that is starting to have an effect on the electricity stock prices," Williamson said.

Skellerup Holdings was the benchmark index's worst performer, dropping 4.2 percent to $1.60, after the Auckland-based rubber company said profit excluding Canterbury earthquake insurance payments rose 9 percent to $20.7 million in the year ended June 30, lagging expectations for profit of $23.4 million, according to the mean estimate of analysts compiled by Reuters.

Spark, formerly Telecom Corp, rose 0.3 percent to $2.91.

Outside the benchmark index, Tenon was unchanged at $1.56, and has gained 7.6 percent this year. The wood mouldings manufacturer said it returned to profit of US$2 million, from a year-earlier loss of US$3 million, as increased building activity in the US boosted sales. It plans to return cash to investors through an on-market buyback of 400,000 shares next Wednesday.

NZF Group, the financial services company fined and suspended from trading on the New Zealand stock exchange last year after a four-and-a-half month delay in filing its annual report, said its board is in confidential discussions with business which may use the company's shell for a reverse listing.

(BusinessDesk)

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