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Stocks to watch: Air NZ, Contact, NZR

Wednesday 17th March 2010

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Air New Zealand is planning to increase the number of seats on domestic flights next year, while the brand damage Contact Energy sustained in 2008 appears to be lessening, plus Fletcher Building's director is ending his 16-year reign at the end of this month.

Air New Zealand (AIR): The national carrier announced plans to increase the number of seats on domestic flights from January next year and bolster capacity further during the Rugby World Cup. The shares fell 3 cents to $1.32 yesterday, when the company shed its dividend.

Contact Energy (CEN): The national energy supplier’s loss of customers following self-inflicted brand damage in 2008 seems to have slowed according to the company’s monthly update. In the year to February, Contact’s electricity customer numbers were 481,000, a loss of only 9,500. Its shares fell 0.7% yesterday to $6.04.

Fletcher Building (FBU): The Australasia’s biggest building materials company has announced that Roderick Deane is ending his 16-year directorship including nine as chairman at the end of the month. The former Reserve Bank deputy governor and Telecom Corp CEO will be succeeded in the chairman role by former Fletcher’s chief executive Ralph Waters. Its shares, which have appreciated 50% in the past year fell 0.7% to $8.12.

New Zealand Refining (NZR): The nation’s only oil refinery yesterday announced that its refining margin recovered to US$6.85 per barrel in the first two months of the year, from as little as US$1 in December. Hamilton Hindin Greene director Grant Williamson said while margins are still volatile, NZR may have seen the worst of its margin decrease. The stock gained 6.2% to $3.61 yesterday.

Speirs Group (SGL): The food technology company that sold its finance business reported a first-half loss of $1.2 million, reflecting start-up costs of its Speirs Nutritionals omega-3 start-up and corporate governance costs. The shares, which traded infrequently, fell 14% to 25 cents yesterday.

Telecom Corp. (TEL): The shares fell 1.8% to $2.17, a record low, yesterday after the phone company said the government’s plans to rollout broadband services to rural areas while amending the way Telecom is compensated for maintaining uneconomic lines will slash the company’s earnings by $168 million over three years.

Windflow Technologies (WTL): The wind turbine manufacturer yesterday reported a first-half loss of $1.6 million, wider than the year-earlier loss of $1.1 million and largely reflecting a rise in operational expenses to $3.6 million from $3 million. The shares last traded on March 8 at $1.30 

Themes of the day: Finance ministers from the euro zone have agreed to use emergency loans to help Greece avoid monetary meltdown, while ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has removed it from a potential downgrade. America’s Federal Reserve said more time was needed for recovery to take hold in the US and that a cash rate lift isn’t yet required. The Dow Jones Industrial rose 0.03%, while the Nasdaq Composite lifted 0.3%. The kiwi dollar rose, nudging 71 US cents. Locally, traders are awaiting the Westpac consumer confidence survey today.

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