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MARKET CLOSE: Weaker building stats weigh on Fletcher Building

Wednesday 1st July 2009

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New Zealand shares fell, pushing the NZX 50 Index down for the first session in five, as weaker Australian building approvals weighed on Fletcher Building and PGG Wrightson shareholder Silver Fern Farms announced plans to issue its own publicly traded stock.

Fletcher Building (NZX: FBU ) fell 2.4% to $6.42 after Australian government figures showed home-building approvals unexpectedly posted their first decline in four months in May. Permits to build or renovate houses and apartments dropped 12.5% from the previous month against a Bloomberg survey estimate of a 3% gain.

“Those building stats were slightly negative” for Fletcher, said Paul Robertshawe, who manages $250 million of equities at Tower Asset Management.

PGG Wrightson (NZX: PGW ) declined 5.3% to $1.07, leading the index lower. The company stumped up its own shares towards a settlement with Silver Fern Farms over their failed merger. Silver Fern has proposed to its shareholders a new ordinary share that trades on the Unlisted platform.

Robertshawe said investors are awaiting evidence that the so-called global green shoots are starting to translate into earnings, with the reporting season for the June half kicking off next month. “Without clear signals, it’s down to the macro numbers.”

Fisher & Paykel Appliances (NZX: FPA ) was down 1.5% to 66 cents on the day, with little reaction to its announcement that 20%-owner Haier Group’s chief marketing officer and chief financial officer would join the board, while Stuart Broadhurst was promoted to chief operating officer, freeing up CEO John Bongard to focus on growth opportunities from the Haier relationship.

Sky City Entertainment Group (NZX: SKC )  fell 1.9% to $2.63 and Mainfreight (NZX: MFT ) declined 1.4% to $4.16.

Port of Tauranga (NZX: POT ) fell 1.1% to $6.08 after NZL Group, a stevedore company nagging the port to be allowed to operate its own container cranes, said it won a domestic road freight contract with Carter Holt Harvey.

Hellaby Holdings (NZX: HBY ) , the group with interests ranging from footwear stores to automotive parts, soared 25% to $1.40 after announcing a 36% reduction in core debt and the conclusion of a refinancing agreement with Westpac Banking Corp. through until July 2011.

“Hellaby’s balance sheet and free cash flows have been significantly strengthened by ongoing working capital improvements during the past year,” managing director John Williamson said in a statement. “This has resulted in substantially lower inventories and improved collections across our businesses.” The shares have soared 124% in the past three months.

NZX Ltd (NZX: NZX ), the stock exchange operator, rose 4% to $7.49 after announcing it had completed the sale of its TZ1 Registry business to ļ¬nancial services company Markit for US$37.1 million. 

Genesis Research and Development Corp. (NZX: GEN ), the Auckland-based biotechnology company, soared 58% to 15 cents, with just 7,000 shares traded, after announcing it would tap an international venture capital group to partner on a new subsidiary to undertake its gene silencing project.

The company yesterday told shareholders it had an “urgent” need for cash with funds on hand currently standing at NZ$300,000. Genesis said it will offer a share purchase plan to raise funds while it attempts to sell some assets and recoup debt. 

The NZX 50 fell 15.73, or 0.6%, to 2780.36. Within the index, 22 stocks declined, 17 rose and 12 were unchanged. Turnover was $70.5 million, down from $157.8 million yesterday, the end of the quarter, which spurred one of the busiest days this year.

Shares weakened in Europe and the U.S. yesterday after a disappointing drift in American consumer sentiment and first-quarter GDP data from the U.K. showing the worst slump since the late 1950s.

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