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Stocks to watch: New Zealand equity preview

Thursday 25th September 2008

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The following stocks may be active on the New Zealand exchange after developments since the close of trading yesterday.

Themes of the day: Benchmark stock indexes on Wall Street were little changed after two days of declines as the Congress considered Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's US$700 billion package to buy toxic assets from financial institutions. US interest rate swap spreads widened to a record and US Treasury bill rates fell as investors eschewed riskier assets. Crude oil for November delivery fell 0.8% to US$105.73 a barrel after US fuel demand declined.

Air New Zealand (AIR): The national carrier yesterday said it was well placed to cope with any downturn in demand because its capex demands are small and its upgraded, fuel-efficient fleet gives it flexibility to tweak its routes as demand changes. The shares were at NZ$1.05 yesterday and have declined 45% this year.

Contact Energy (CEN): Electricity prices in the South Island fell about 17% to an average NZ$47.33 a megawatt hour, the third weekly decline, as lake levels rose and demand abated. Contact has been forced to buy power on the spot market to supply South Island customers. The shares fell 1.2% to NZ$8.50 yesterday and have fallen 1% in the past month.

New Image Group (NEW): Chief executive Stephen Lyttelton said the 2009 year has started well and the company "is projecting a good lift in profitability in FY09 based on strength in direct selling and growth in retail and manufacturing. The company founded in 1984 by chairman Graeme Clegg produces colostrum and other natural health products. The stock traded at 13 cents yesterday and has fallen 14% this year.

New Zealand Oil & Gas (NZO): The expansion of reserves at the Tui oilfield and production coming on stream from Kupe next year "provide a very sound outlook for continued profitability for the medium term," Chairman Tony Radford said in the annual report. The company is "systematically screening opportunities" to acquire more reserves in New Zealand and overseas, he said. The shares were unchanged at NZ$1.40 yesterday and have gained 20% this year. The stock is rated "buy" or "outperform" by four analysts who follow the stock.

NZX (NZX): Chief executive Mark Weldon said the New Zealand stock exchange manager wants Australian rival ASX to join in lobbying their governments for a 'passporting' system, allowing the exchanges and brokers to compete in each other's markets without duplicative regulation. The stock gained about 1% to NZ$6.51 yesterday and has dropped 27% this year, about matching the benchmark NZX 50 Index.

By Jonathan Underhill

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