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Stocks to watch: New Zealand equity preview

Friday 24th October 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: Shares on Wall Street staged a late rally as a rebound in the price of oil helped lift producers including Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 2%. The New Zealand dollar weakened to the lowest in six years against the yen and fell versus the US dollar as investors exited higher-yielding assets funded with yen loans.

Contact Energy (CEN): The biggest utility on the NZX approved an increase to its pool of fees with the support of majority shareholder Origin Energy. Still, directors bowed to criticism and won't take the increase now. Shareholders at the AGM yesterday said the board risked damaging the company's reputation if they doubled their fees. At the rowdy meeting, Chairman Grant King said profit growth may stall this year on the impact of drought in the south and constraints on the Cook Strait cable.

The shares fell 3.2% to NZ$7.31 yesterday and have declined 17% in the past month.

Metlifecare (MET): The retirement village operator's chairman Jim McLay told shareholders yesterday that the company was well positioned to ride out the economic downturn. McLay said the company would be able to take advantage of the inevitable upturn in the residential housing market and cash flow was strong. The shares traded at NZ$4 on October 22 and have slid 45% this year.

NZX (NZX): The stock market operator today reported third quarter profit rose 23% to NZ$2.8 million. Chief executive Mark Weldon said the company is "in good shape to meet the challenges market conditions are throwing at us." The stock fell about 3% to NZ$5.93 yesterday and has dropped 34% this year.

Port of Tauranga (POT): The port company yesterday said it expects to lift profit from last year's NZ$42 million after earnings in the first quarter rose 20%. Chief executive Mark Cairns said container volumes rose 26% in the first quarter. The company is still expecting an offer from Ports of Auckland for its container terminal, shareholders were told at their AGM yesterday. The shares fell 0.8% to NZ$6.55 yesterday and have fallen 4% this year.

Scott Technology (SCT): The maker of automated production lines has "survived a period of extremely volatile currency" and now see "prospects in all markets improving," managing director Chris Hopkins said at the opening of the company's engineering facility in Dunedin. Still, "we cannot overlook, or ignore, the impact the current world financial crisis may bring," he said. The stock last traded at NZ$1.10 on October 22 and is down 40% this year.

Xero (XRO): Xero reported a first-half net loss of $3.5 million, reflecting infrastructure investment to help the company expand into Australia and the UK It also announced a new partnership with Telecom's Business Hub to provide SMEs with accounting software. It traded at 80 cents yesterday and has gained about 6% this year.

By Jonathan Underhill

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