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Stocks to watch: Pumpkin Patch, Freightways, FPH, Briscoes, Wakefield Health

Thursday 11th March 2010

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The official cash rate remains unchanged at a record low 2.5% today. Pumpkin Patch shares continue to rise and ACC discloses it has ceased to be a substantial security holder in Freightways. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare announce a new product and Wakefield Health plan to acquire control of another hospital.

Pumpkin Patch (NZX: PPL ): The children’s clothing retailer announced a 50% increase in net profit for the six months to the end of January of $14.3 million. ASB Securities analyst Florian Burch said in ShareChat that the closing of 15 underperforming stores in the US helped the bottom line, and management’s tone is that the Australian market will show more growth than New Zealand, as will the UK compared to the US Given strong cashflows, low debt and modest new store openings, Burch sees share buyback and higher dividend payouts as possibilities. Its shares rose 2.8% yesterday to $2.18.

Freightways (NZX: FRE ): The Accident Compensation Corporation yesterday disclosed it had ceased to be a substantial security holder in Freightways as its holding fell to 4.97% from 5.4% as a result of stock sales. The shares slipped 0.3% to $3.09 yesterday. 

Briscoe Group (NZX: BGR ):  The operator of homeware, Rebel Sports and Living & Giving outlets this week posted an 81% jump in annual profit, matching its forecast. Managing director Rod Duke said yesterday that he is “cautiously optimistic” for trading in 2010. The shares rose 1.5% to $1.37 yesterday. 

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (NZX: FPH ): The manufacturer of respirators and breathing masks yesterday announced the launch of a new device for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. It is awaiting clearance to begin selling its ICON continuous positive air way pressure devices in the US, its biggest market. The shares edged up 0.6% to $3.31 yesterday. 

Satara Cooperative Group (NZX: SAT ): The fruit packer and coolstore operator yesterday posted a 24% decline in full-year earnings, as a poorer harvest reduced fruit volumes, prompting a focus on increased efficiencies, including new automatic fruit packers. The cooperative’s investment shares last traded on March 5 at 62 cents. 

Wakefield Health (NZX: WFD ): The operator of three private hospitals announced yesterday that it planned to acquire control of a fourth, Tauranga’s Grace Hospital. Wakefield would buy 60% of Grace Hospital with a takeover of the current holder of the shares, Norfolk Investments, for $22.6 million cash. Southern Cross Hospitals owns the remaining 40%. The shares last traded at $7.04. 

Economic themes of the day: Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard kept the official cash rate unchanged at a record low 2.5% today and said he still expects to start hiking rates mid-year for the next rates hike as subdued economic growth curbs inflation.

Global equities were quiet while waiting for Chinese economic news and the yen fell sharply on expectations the Bank of Japan is preparing to ease monetary policy.

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