MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed as exporters hit record highs, others slide

New Zealand shares were mixed with exporters A2 Milk Co and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare hitting record highs as a weaker kiwi dollar boosts their overseas earnings, while CBL Corp dropped amid a gloomy outlook for insurers.

The S&P/NZX50 Index increased 0.22 points, or 0.003 percent, to 7,851.75. Within the index, 25 stocks fell, 16 rose and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $136 million.

The New Zealand dollar fell from a month-high as concerns around the greenback faded after Hurricane Irma's impact wasn't as bad as initially feared and as North Korea didn't spook investors with more weapons testing. A weaker currency tends to boost demand for exporters as it increases the value of their overseas sales.

A2 Milk rose 3.6 percent to $6.12, a fresh record, and leading the market higher. The milk marketer released a presentation from an investor conference in Hong Kong, having pitched to London investors last week, and reiterated the board is evaluating capital management alternatives and is open to a special dividend depending on progress of its planned $40 million on-market share buyback, which it will launch in the next year, and future market conditions.

The prospect of a special dividend was first raised last month when the milk marketer announced it had tripled its annual profit and said it would use some of its accumulated cash to buy back shares, and may pay a special dividend. The shares have gained 18 percent since then, and are up 177 percent this year.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, another exporter, advanced 1.7 percent to $12.82, an all-time high.

Xero gained 2.1 percent to $26.95 and is up 51 percent this year.

"We might see a slightly more complicated tax backdrop if we get a change of government, that would presumably be a positive for Xero - they're an exporter as well, which is another theme that has been in vogue," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners.

CBL Corp was the worst performer, down 4.3 percent to $2.92, the lowest it has closed since August 2016. On Friday, the stock gave up rights to a 1.5 cents per share interim dividend.

"They've obviously had a bit of a difficult time of things lately, they had a poor month in August and there was a trading update that wasn't so good," Lister said. "Now you've got insurance companies around the world getting sold off because of the storms and earthquakes you've seen, so I think it's been dragged down in line with those."

Retirement village operators fell, with Ryman Healthcare down 1.8 percent to $8.96, Metlifecare dropping 1.3 percent to $5.87 and Summerset declining 0.6 percent to $4.97.

"They all had a pretty difficult week last week as well, Summerset and Ryman posted good results last month but again there's political risk," Lister said. "If you get a change of government there's uncertainty about the housing market and whether you'll see a tax clampdown. These companies benefit from rising house prices, so maybe there's a bit of caution creeping in."

"I don't think it will be a game changer for their businesses - they're still largely driven by demographics, the ageing population and demand for healthcare, but at the margin it would be a bit of a headwind for profitability, compared with what they've seen over the last five years when it has been full steam ahead. It's a minor negative for them if you get changes which will limit house price gains from here on."


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A2 Milk - what a success story - great work! Started the year at $2.08 NZ according to my records.

Any Fonterra farmers and/or management thinking their co-op may possibly need a bit of a strategy rethink?

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