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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall as Tourism Holdings drops on softer earnings

Tuesday 26th February 2019

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New Zealand shares fell, with several disappointments in the earnings season, as rental RV operator Tourism Holdings posted weaker than expected earnings, Vector warned on dividend growth and Gentrack downgraded its outlook.

Still, Vista Group International hit a record after delivering strong annual earnings and projecting a sixth year of 20 percent-plus revenue growth. 

The S&P/NZX 50 index decreased 21.5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 9,323.13. Within the index, 27 stocks fell, 17 rose, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $137.1 million. 

Earnings season continued with a negative tone today. Tourism Holdings fell short of earnings expectations in posting a 23 percent decline in first-half profit and trimming the top end of its guidance for annual earnings. The shares fell 6.7 percent to $4.32, its lowest close since August 2017, on a volume of 377,000, more than twice its 90-day average. 

"It wasn't a terrible result, although it was a softer six months," said Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners. "They sounded upbeat about the full year, but people will believe that when they see it."

Gentrack didn't report today, but downgraded its guidance at its annual meeting, predicting earnings will be about 20 percent lower in the six months through March due to extra spending on staff. The utilities software developer led the market lower, down 7.3 percent at $4.69, on an even smaller than usual volume of 35,000. 

Utilities operator Vector fell 1.1 percent to $3.50, with 405,000 shares changing hands, more than twice its average. The company lifted first-half earnings 5.9 percent, largely on electricity volume growth, and affirmed annual guidance. However, it warned an upcoming pricing review could stifle its ability to keep hiking dividends in the future. 

Mercury NZ declined 3 percent to $3.60 on a volume of 257,000, less than half its average. It reported flat - albeit near-record - first-half earnings on reduced hydro generation. 

In contrast, Vista soared almost 13 percent to $4.50, on 1.7 million shares, more than seven times its 224,000 90-day average. The cinema software developer continued to grab market share and registered gains across all its units in lifting annual profit 27 percent. It also anticipates another year of 20 percent-plus sales growth. 

Lister said Vista's result was solid and the outlook fairly upbeat: "They seem to be travelling pretty well." 

Outside the benchmark index, earnings were even grimmer. Comvita sank 20 percent to $4.14, the lowest close in almost four years, after posting a first-half loss and saying plans to turnaround the business were taking longer than expected. 

Spark New Zealand was the most active stock, with 7.2 million shares changing hands, compared to its 4.1 million three-monthly average. It fell 1.6 percent to $3.64. 

Sky Network Television was unchanged at $1.48, with almost 2 million shares traded, compared to a 494,000 average. Veteran director of sports Richard Last will leave the pay-TV operator, as new chief executive Martin Stewart settles into the role. 

Of the other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Fletcher Building slipped 0.8 percent to $4.97, Trade Me decreased 0.2 percent to $6.37, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare increased 0.5 percent to $14.44, Meridian Energy fell 0.9 percent to $3.76, and Kiwi Property Group declined 0.7 percent to $1.41. 

Kathmandu rose for a second day after yesterday's stronger than expected retail sales data. The outdoor equipment chain was up 4.1 percent at $2.54 on volumes of 822,000, compared to its 246,000 average. 

Air New Zealand fell 1 percent to $2.62 on a smaller volume than usual of 732,000. The national carrier said it will cut some domestic airfares, but the change isn't likely to have a material impact on earnings. The airline will announce its first-half result on Thursday. 


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