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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares mixed, Sky TV falls while Spark gains on ComCom merger delay

Monday 31st October 2016

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New Zealand shares were mixed, with Sky Network Television, Restaurant Brands New Zealand and A2 Milk Co dropping while Spark New Zealand rose.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 17.38 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,960.68. Within the index, 23 stocks fell, 19 rose and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $172.3 million.

"We're treading water at the moment, there's an uneasiness about what's happening with the US presidential elections so that's dented the market a little bit," said Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. "There's also the bottom of the interest rate cycle stuff, repositioning suggesting interest-rate sensitive stocks have been sold off and we've seen that over the past few weeks."

Sky Network Television was the worst performer on the index, down 3.8 percent to $4.62, while Spark New Zealand was the best performer, up 2.8 percent to $3.66. The Commerce Commission has delayed its decision on whether to approve a tie-up between Sky TV and Vodafone New Zealand over concerns the merged entity would use its muscle to squeeze out smaller rivals. Spark New Zealand and Two Degrees Mobile have formally opposed the merger.

"The concern still is about the live sports aspect, and Sky's dominating position in that market," McIntyre said. "It's not necessarily about Spark but it's certainly about some of the smaller players that operate in the marketplace which adds to that overall competition. Duopolies tend to operate pretty well in our market due to the size of the population base, but obviously, the Commerce Commission are taking their time, and rightfully so." 

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.1 percent to $29.72. It has sold its retail and wealth business in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia to Singapore’s DBS Bank. In the 2016 financial year, the business accounted for approximately $825 million in revenue and net profit of about $50 million, ANZ said.

"The retreat of ANZ from its Asia businesses is certainly underway, or a continuation of," McIntyre said. "They haven't given any indication of how much they've received for it, but they've certainly said the sales price is a premium to the book value and it's going to book a net loss of A$265 million, so they're booking some losses there."

Restaurant Brands dropped 3.3 percent to $5.28, weakness McIntyre said was expected as the fast food operator put in place a retail offer today, offering its shareholders one new share at $4.70 apiece for every 5.15 shares they already own.

A2 Milk Co fell 3.1 percent to $1.86, and has dropped 11 percent from $2.09 over the last two weeks.

"Some analysts are saying maybe the baby formula market, there might be a bit of a glut there, and we've seen some money off the table," McIntyre. "It's a stock that likes showing itself above $2 then promptly goes down under $2, but it does look like some analysts are saying baby formula ingredients stockpiles are quite high. When there's a profitable line like A2, there tends to be an undersupply and all of a sudden there's an oversupply, that production can change quite quickly."

Outside the main index, Oceania Natural was unchanged at $2.65. The food supplements maker, which listed on the NXT at the end of March, said it was on track to lift revenue by 58 percent this year to $5.4 million as it tests new markets outside of China. Sales were about $1 million in the second quarter, mainly from its key market of China, from $51,000 in the first quarter.

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